How UN Women is helping police reduce domestic violence

  • COVID-19 closures have exacerbated violence against women by trapping them with their abusers.
  • The biggest challenge is that very few women report violent behavior, says Pakistan Police Commissioner Maria Mahmood.
  • Mahmood attributed this to a “patriarchal police force” and “victim blame attitudes”.
  • To help address this issue, UN Women has organized police training in locations around the world, including Pakistan and Kosovo.
  • It has published “The Handbook on Gender Sensitive Policing for Women and Girls Subject to Violence”.

Over the past 18 months, by trapping women with their abusers, lockdowns linked to the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated the already widespread violence against women while preventing many from obtaining sexual violence. ugly. But even those who do manage to contact the police face another long-standing challenge: a culture and system that treats the survivor as a big part of the problem.

“The biggest challenge we face is that women do not report cases of violence because of the attitudes of the police officers who blame the victims,” ​​says Police Commissioner Maria Mahmood, director of the Pakistan National Police Academy . “When I started working as a police officer, I was shocked to see the deeply rooted prejudices of a patriarchal police force. The criminal justice system is discriminatory, also stigmatizes victims of violence and does not provide them with effective support.

While there are many other causes besides unfriendly officers, globally only 1 in 10 female survivors seek help from the police, according to a 2015 United Nations report. UN Women has tried to encourage them. police reforms in its work on essential services, and with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in its work on police and justice responses to gender-based violence against women.

this is a photo of Jane Townsley giving transformational training to the police force in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh

Jane Townsley provides transformational training to police forces in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. His experiences at Cox’s Bazar largely influenced peer advice in the Police Handbook.

Image: UN Women / Julian D’Silva

Using its own manuals on gender responsive policing, UN Women has organized police trainings in places around the world including Pakistan, Kosovo,[1] Morocco and the world’s largest refugee camp, Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. This year, UN Women, in partnership with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the International Association of Policewomen, released the 529-page manual on gender-responsive policing for women and police. girls victims of violence; it will be used in 22 countries. The manual provides practical and in-depth advice on how to respond to crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic; prevent violence against women and girls; and conduct surveys that respond to the needs and concerns of survivors and focus more on what the perpetrators have done.

Changing attitudes and creating change

In Pakistan, UN Women trained the national police force in 2019 and 2020 and this year wrote a Pakistan-specific police training manual on survivor management. Mahmood uses these lessons in his academy.

“We see UN Women as a key partner to help us build the capacity of Pakistani police officers,” she said.

Jane Townsley Provided Distance Training to Cox's Bazar Police Force During COVID-19

Jane Townsley provided distance training to Cox’s Bazar Police Force during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a chapter specially included in Townsley’s manual, she stressed the importance of coordination in times of normalcy and times of crisis.

Image: UN Women

Major Tahire Haxholli, head of the Kosovo Police’s Domestic Violence Investigation Unit, said UN Women training has changed the way the force treats survivors, “especially in handling cases. without prejudice, without stigma and by prioritizing the problem “.

Atiqur Rahman, commander of the Cox’s Bazar camp, explains that female officers were deployed there because the refugee women, who are Muslims, did not want to communicate with the men. Officers were also trained on how to overcome the language barrier and how to empathize with people in such vulnerable conditions, he says.

UN Women Morocco has supported the restructuring of the national police force, including ensuring that each provincial police station has a separate unit formed to deal with women victims of violence.

Among those who benefited from the reforms was a young woman from the city of Meknes who was mistreated by her boss in 2019. A friend took the pregnant woman to the police station.

Cox's Bazar policewomen undergoing transformational training

Policewomen in Cox’s Bazar taking transformational training from Jane Townsley.

Image: UN Women / Julian D’Silva

She was in a difficult position. Sex outside marriage is a crime in Morocco, and she was carrying “evidence”. In an interview with UN Women, the woman recalled:

“On the way to the police station, I was afraid that [the police officers] would ignore me and not believe what I was going to tell them.

“But when I arrived, I was greeted warmly by a policewoman who introduced herself as the head of the Police Unit for Women Victims of Violence. I thought to myself that if the chef is a woman, maybe she will understand me. The first thing she told me was: There is a solution to everything. I will never forget this. It has become my motto in life. Her words encouraged me and she listened to me with great care and attention, showing interest.

“At the time, I felt insecure, in danger, not worthy and that my life was over. Meeting her made me realize that I still had a chance to take control of my life.

While having more female police officers will increase people’s confidence in the police, lasting change requires transforming police cultures through better policies, structures and practices, says Jane Townsley, Executive Director of the International Association of Women police officers and former Chief Inspector in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Jane Townsley with training participants in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh

Jane Townsley’s experiences at Cox’s Bazar largely influenced the peer orientation in The Police Handbook.

Image: UN Women / Julian D’Silva

Townsley trained Cox’s Bazar Police as a consultant to UN Women and co-authored the recently published manual with human rights and security specialist Mirko Fernandez. Unlike most other police training materials, the manual is primarily intended for middle police managers.

According to Townsley, “It has become obvious to me that you can train all the first responders in the world, but if the people who manage and lead frontline staff don’t understand the importance of responding effectively to violence in the world. with regard to women… other efforts will be made. in vain.”

“This manual was written by the police for the police. A key element to the success of the manual will be to ensure that police at the institutional level accept responsibility for its implementation and recognize the benefits it can bring, not only to victims and survivors of violence against women. women and girls, but also to the effectiveness of the police organization. in general.”

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