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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 June, 2003, 15:16 GMT 16:16 UK
Women stop traffic in Dhaka

By Alastair Lawson
BBC correspondent in Dhaka

Up to 40 women have spent their first day on duty as traffic police in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, where they face one of the toughest traffic management jobs in the world.

Dhaka is one of the most congested of all cities, with a wide range of vehicles competing for what little space exists.

Female traffic policewoman in Dhaka
The move is seen as something of a breakthrough
There is no highway code as such, other than to use the horn as often as possible.

Into this maelstrom have been flung the newly-recruited female traffic police, immaculately dressed in neat blue-and-white uniforms.

This pristine look probably won't last long.

Just one day on the streets and their clothes will have the same grimy look as their male counterparts.

The women traffic cops have been deployed at key junctions around the city, at all times accompanied by their male colleagues.

But it is not clear whether they will adopt the same tactics in traffic management as the policemen.

They are accused of numerous dubious roadside practices, such as hitting errant rickshaw-pullers with wooden canes, asking for bribes and puncturing the tyres of vehicles that fail to respond to their gesticulations.

Senior policemen say the presence of women police on the streets will bring benefits; they willl be especially reassuring to women and children faced with the hazardous task of negotiating their way around a city where pedestrians are an endangered species.

The appointment of female traffic police follows the decision in December for the first time to commission women as officers in the Bangladesh army.

All this is regarded as something of a breakthrough in a Muslim country that is governed by a female prime minister, but where women are often treated as subservient.


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