Every woman’s rights while dealing with the police
It is highly ironic that the police body is ideally expected to protect the populace, regardless of their gender, but it is often the other way round. The very deep gender inequality in India has lead to the police becoming incredibly nonchalant and dismissive of a woman’s queries and protection. From being indulgent and patronizing to blatantly ignoring and even blaming a woman for a crime committed against her, the police often tend to misuse their powers as an executive body. However, the laws have also made provisions for protection from the law-enforcers.
Every woman should remain aware of her rights while approaching the police. If they don’t they’re often mislead by the inspectors, and are often sent back home after being harassed by the police. In order to prevent this from happening, every woman should be confident of her rights, and should not be afraid to bring them up in the case of errant and misbehaving officers.
Every woman has the right to legal help while approaching the police. This does not mean that one should hire a very expensive lawyer to represent her case or her complaint. Legal aid should be given for free to women, by law, and every woman should ask for this provision if she finds herself being sidelined or misquoted by the police. Demand to have representation by a lawyer if you ever face problems with the police while lodging a complaint.
According to the legal rights, a woman is not to be interrogated at the police station. It is against the law to call a woman down to the police station in order to interrogate her. Often, the police, during sensitive cases, try to use interrogation as an excuse to make the woman change her statement, or even to misbehave with her. Coercion is a very common trick which they use, and their methods are not always ethical within the bounds of the station. Therefore, if the police ever call you down to the station, make sure you quote your right and stand your ground.
Often, the officers at a station might refuse to take the complaint or lodge the FIR. A woman may, under such circumstances, use her right to the Zero FIR to get her complaint lodged at any other branch. The police, in reality, cannot refuse to lodge a complaint even if they are against it. When a woman presses charges against an abusive family member or against anyone who is sexually harassing her, the police tell her to go back home, or push arbitrary moral arguments in favor of the criminal or the perpetrator of the crime. This should not be allowed to continue, and every woman should assert her right to justice.
Another very important right which a woman has, is her right to privacy. When reporting rape or molestation charges, a woman is often very scared about the information leaking. This prevents many women from pressing charges against the criminals, but what most of them do not realize is that they can lodge their FIR in complete privacy, without any third party becoming aware of the circumstances without her permission. Even the press will be kept out of the loop unless the woman decides otherwise. A woman may not even have to go down to the station to lodge her complaint. An e-mail or a registered post is considered as a legitimate complaint, and her statement can be recorded later when the police visit her.
Ignorance of the basic rights is what often leads to the police misbehaving with women. Therefore, every woman should arm herself with her rights and have comprehensive knowledge of what she can and cannot do, in order to avail justice in a largely unfair and gender-biased society.