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A survivor of trauma should be given a chance to start her life a fresh. That is the kind of confidence that a women officer can give them

06-05-2013 Interview

Women in security forces need to be sensitized on several issues like gender-based violence, human trafficking, sexual harassment at work etc, to increase their gender sensitivity and awareness. The ICRC therefore has also been conducting training sessions for women cadres with customized learning modules that brief the women officers on ways to handle such specific challenges.

D.K Arya, IPS (Retd.), former Director General, Border Security Force, and presently Consultant to the ICRC talks about the significance of providing training on International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and human rights to women officers and how increased gender sensitivity, among both men and women in the forces, can improve their skills of handling victims of violence and conflict. Excerpts from an interview.

How has the ICRC’s department for relations with armed and security forces been training women actors in security forces?

Until now, there has not been a specific approach of the ICRC to target women officers as there were few. However lately their number has increased. Having said that, about 10-12% of officers present in our training sessions are women.

There are also cases where just the women officers have been exclusively addressed by ICRC like the dissemination taken up for 95 women Sub-Inspector Cadets at the Madhya Pradesh Police Academy in Sagar, in July 2012. Prior to that we have also conducted dissemination sessions for women officers of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and Border Security Force (BSF), briefing them specifically on issues pertaining to sexual harassment etc.

What is the approach when it comes to addressing a training like that in Sagar where the entire focus is on women’s issues?

In such training sessions, the issues revolve around equipping the officers for dealing with gender sensitive scenarios. For example, how to handle women in a crowd who are agitating and could be even violent, and therefore we tell women officers to intelligently use their communication skills rather than using force. We also train them how to handle cases where a woman has been traumatised because of rape, molestation, domestic violence or even abuse at the work place.

Do the training sessions also focus on how to handle cases of sexual assault in a better way?

Topics related to sensitive handling of cases of sexual assault are an integral part of our training sessions for women officers. For example, we specially emphasize that a woman who has come to the police station for medical examination or providing circumstantial evidence in cases of sexual assault, should be dealt with respect. Such cases should be expedited with the help of a women doctor to ensure that the survivor is not trapped for long hours amidst all the paper work.

Disrespect towards women’s rights has been under the spotlight recently. How do you think such training sessions can improve the scenario when it comes to dealing with victims, both inside and outside the security forces?

Obviously, there are certain details, which a woman victim will not reveal to a policeman. Therefore, when a better-sensitized women officer sympathetically deals with the case, she in the process, is not just helping the victim but the police as well in getting the detailed information and putting them in a proper perspective.

A survivor of trauma should be given a chance to start her life afresh - that is the kind of confidence that a women officer can give them.