The image that empowered me today

Even in the all-powerful law enforcement agencies, women are seen as weak and vulnerable, to be kept away from seasoned criminals or first-time offenders

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Puja Bhattacharjee | December 9, 2014



Today's (December 9) newspapers are splashed with a powerful image. A woman police officer, ACP Shweta Chauhan, Sarai Rohilla, is seen leading Shiv Kumar Yadav to Tis Hazari Court in Delhi. Only three days ago, the taxi driver from Mathura was the man in charge, of a woman's body. He allegedly raped a woman passenger of his taxi.

Cowering under the flash of the cameras on Monday, Yadav is seen held by Chauhan who is oozing confidence as she firmly drags him out of the court. This image is rife with symbolism. We are used to seeing well built, tall and moustachioed police officers handling dreaded criminals like rapists and murderers. Seldom have women police officers been seen handling rape accused or hardened criminals, which, willingly or unwillingly, reiterates the belief that women are too weak to handle such situations. There appears to be a silent agreement among people in the law enforcement agencies that women officers have to be kept away from sex offenders.

Women police force has been reduced to only dealing with women accused or convicts. Despite repeated criticism, male officers continue to lead investigations in sex crimes. The male machismo is at the forefront when dealing with violent offenders like Yadav.

Only on Friday night, Yadav was the savage perpetrator of a sexual assault, a lustful beast who took advantage of a sleeping woman to satiate his animal urges. A cunning and unapologetic monster on the lookout for an opportunity to carry out his sinister plans. A police check post en route the deserted Inderlok patch of road -- where he raped the woman, who, tired after a long day, made the ‘mistake’ of falling asleep while being driven home -- did not deter him. According to reports, he has even admitted to rethinking his motives but once he passed the police post, he must have felt triumphant. He must have felt so powerful over a helpless sleeping woman. I can almost envision him shaking with victory as he got out of the car climbed into the backseat and started to rape. He must have been so sure that he would go scot free (Yadav has been acquitted of a similar charge in 2012.) As we all know, only 20 percent rape cases see conviction in India.

But today we witnessed a crack in the gendered space of Delhi police. We still have a long way to go before the police and other law enforcement agencies ensure gender equality in terms of woman personnel recruited and deployed. But for today women feeling vulnerable everywhere have a reason to feel empowered. We will not remain marginalised and at the mercy of a male-dominated society. Both men and women are adept at playing the role of a protector and deliverer of justice. Let us not talk in the air. Change has to come from within for it to manifest without.

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