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Thursday, 21 February, 2002, 17:43 GMT
India's women police fight discrimination
Women police officers
Some men say the job is too difficult for women
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By Ayanjit Sen in Delhi

Women police officers in India have formed a national forum to fight sexual harassment and discrimination from their male colleagues.

Being a woman in police is a punishment

Female police officer

The forum was announced on Thursday at the end of the country's first conference for women in the police, which gathered representatives from 24 states.

Women officers say men have difficulty accepting them as equals.

India's highest ranking female police officer, Kiran Bedi, told the BBC they had to function under difficult conditions, particularly in terms of the lack of appreciation from male counterparts.

There were also problems balancing home and career, she said.

Mental stress

"Those police women who are the only earning members in their family are even subjected to harassment by their husbands and other family members," Ms Bedi said.

"This puts them under a lot of mental stress."

Lal Krishna Advani
Advani: More women would improve the police's image

A recent survey funded by the British High Commission in India said there was enough evidence to indicate that gender issues affected the equality of opportunity for women in the work place.

According to the survey, 58% of women in the police said they had been held back from exercising their authority.

It showed that 49% said their ideas were not followed while 45% said a mistake made by them was attributed to their gender.

"Being a woman in the police is a punishment," the report quoted one female officer as saying.

Aruna Bahugana, an officer from the southern state of Hyderabad, told the BBC that male officers felt policing was too difficult a job for women.

She said women had to empower themselves and speak out whenever they faced discrimination.

Home Minister LK Advani has said more women in the police would enhance the image of the force in the country.

But experts say the police is still a male-dominated profession in India and needs to address the stereotypical images of the role of women in the country.

See also:

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India's violent homes
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