Community Policing Programme In Kushalgarh

by | Aug 5, 2023

A society that normalises and neglects violence against women slowly develops a disturbing pattern, disregarding the safety, basic rights, and dignity of women within the community. This social behaviour eventually encourages silence and acceptance. It leads to the overlooking of violence, the glorification of sacrifices, and the strength to bear violence, without addressing it. This, ultimately normalises it.

This not only impact women but also all minority communities in the society, making them vulnerable and marginalised. This sends a dangerous message reinforcing harmful stereotypes and further entrenching gender inequality. As per the 2021 crime report of NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau), Rajasthan is one of the top five states in India with the highest number of reported violence against women cases. With a 16.4% share, Rajasthan also recorded the highest rate of rape in 2021.

Within that, Banswara is one among the top five crime prone districts on the basis of women related registered crimes during the year 2019 especially in cases of kidnapping, abduction, trafficking and rape.

– Statistical trend of crime against women in Rajasthan by ‘Prevention, Protection and redressal of crime against women’

In Kushalgarh, people’s livelihood majorly depends on seasonal agriculture and income from distress seasonal migration. Due to this, there are higher numbers of cases on violence against women. Often, instead of support, empathy, and justice, survivors receive indifference, victim blaming, and impunity for perpetrators.

The existing structure to resolve these issues at village level is local nyay panchayat, ‘Banjadiya‘. Police stations mostly reinforce narratives that trivialise women’s experience and undermine their agency. By turning a blind eye, the society reinforces a harmful power dynamic suggesting that women are less deserving of safety and equality.

Aajeevika Bureau is a labour rights and advocacy organisation working with migrant workers in Kushalgarh. They collaborated with the Rajasthan police department to initiate a community policing programme to assist distressed women in the region. This three-way collaboration of Police, an NGO and the community aims to foster trust and active involvement between the law enforcement system and the community it serves.

Community Policing Programme In Kushalgarh

As a part of the programme, the team identified six police stations in the southern region of Banswara district, which borders Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, due to the high number of violence against women cases. Six women from the community were trained as women counsellors. They provide support in these police stations by being present every day for the women in need.

These women counsellors establish safe spaces within the community, offering counselling, legal aid, and other essential services while maintaining the confidentiality and security of the survivors. They facilitate conversations around different types of violence faced by women, enabling them to share their lived experiences. This encourages community members to openly discuss their distress and to seek support from authorities if needed.

The community policing programme relies on strong and active collaboration between the police, counsellors, and community leaders to address safety concerns and develop strategies to prevent and respond to violence against women. Counsellors and police officers undergo specialised training on gender sensitivity, laws related to violence against women, understanding dynamics of gender-based violence, and fostering feminist consciousness in counselling. These trainings equip them with the knowledge and skills to effectively respond to incidents and support survivors in a compassionate and respectful manner.

Women who experience violence reach out to the counsellor for support. For example, Leela*, a 28 year old woman is a seasonal migrant worker in Gujarat who had attended the meetings conducted in her village by the local counsellor, Lalita*. She was back in the village with her six-month old boy working on agricultural fields while her husband was in Gujarat working at construction sites. One night, she called Lalita to inform that a villager had forcefully entered her home at night, attempting to rape her. Other people in the neighbourhood took her to a safe place from where she made the phone call.

On the call, she was seeking support to file a complaint in the police station. She did not believe in the ability of the village panchayat system to deliver justice. The next day, Lalita accompanied Leela to the police station to file a complaint and request for her protection. The police went to the village to arrest the man but could not find him. That night, he attempted to murder Leela. The neighbours once again came to her rescue. But there were lesser people in her support this time because she had approached the justice system outside the village. The next day, police managed to arrest him. Consequently, Leela had to leave for Gujarat again as she had no support in the village. People accused her for putting the man behind bars.

The cases dealt with by the programme are documented for future analysis. It aids in identification of trends, hotspots, and specific challenges faced by women. This allows authorities to allocate resources effectively and strategise accordingly. However, where women are quiet about their needs and discomforts, it’s challenging for them to approach authorities.

In most cases, the perpetrator is a family member and women feel guilty to report against them. Fear of authority makes the police station less approachable. Hence, for the counsellors, it’s vital to establish accessible and confidential reporting mechanisms that encourage women to come forward and report such incidents.

The counsellors ensure that reporting processes are sensitive, supportive, and free from any discrimination or victim-blaming. While increased consciousness of public goodwill and a friendly approach from the police can reduce the community’s challenges, interventions by village justice systems can make justice delivery more difficult.

Community Policing Programme In Kushalgarh

Continuous evaluations of the programme help identify areas for improvement. Prompt and efficient responses from authorities, combined with a reliable support system, encourage the community to fight for their rights.

In Banjadiya, where the village panchayat often hears cases on violence against women, decisions are taken without even hearing the victim. Village heads decide on monetary relief, regardless of the case’s severity. Victims are instructed to give the money to the abuser. A system that addresses these cultural barriers and social norms can help reduce the gap between women and justice. Counsellors, understanding the cultural nuances and the challenges faced by the women in their community, bridge this gap through community engagements and support.

The presence of women counsellors within the community inspires women to voice their concerns, seek support, and take action against violence. They establish a place of power in the village, like the police station, fostering a culture of gender equality and respect.

Women experiencing violence often face emotional trauma, fear, and isolation. Counsellors routinely follow-up with each case to support the recovery process of the survivors of violence. The programme’s objective is to facilitate better access to justice for women experiencing violence and to amplify their voice. This can be done systematically or individually. Ways to help include sharing stories of these women, and promoting initiatives supporting the cause. One can also donate, volunteer, raise awareness, support policies, and advocate for political initiatives. The goal is not to speak on their behalf but to provide platforms where their own voices can be heard. It’s important to approach this journey with respect, humility, and understanding that they are the experts on their own experience.

*Names changed to maintain confidentiality

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