Context: Despite Home Ministry setting 33% as the target for women’s representation in the police, India persists with a male-dominated police force.


Constitutional provisions

  • Police is a state subject falling in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. 
  • Fundamental Rights
    • Article 14: Equality before law for all including women. 
    • Article 15: Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
    • Article 15(3): The State to make any special provision in favour of women and children.
    • Article 16(1): There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the state.
    • Article 19(1)(a): states that all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression.
    • Article 21:  Protection of life and personal liberty.
  • Directive Principles of State Policy
    • Article 39(a): The State to direct its policy towards securing for men and women equally the right to an adequate means of livelihood.
    • Article 39(d): directs the state to secure equal pay for equal work for both men and women.
    • Article 42 directs the State to make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief.
    • Article 51(A) (e) states that it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religion, linguistic, regional or sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women.


  • Data about low numbers of policewomen
    • The annual change in the share of women in the police force from 2012 to 2016 was found to be less than 1?ross States, according to the India Justice Report, 2019. At this rate, most States will take over 50 years to achieve the 33% target.
    • In 2019, women comprised less than 10% of police personnel. 
    • There has been only a 5% increase in the number of policewomen in a decade (3.65% in 2009 to 8.98% in 2019).
    • Only seven States (Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Gujarat and Sikkim) had more than 10% policewomen. Some places like Chandigarh have even recorded a decline.
    • The Home Ministry said that at least three women sub-inspectors should be available in a police station as investigating officers.

India Justice Report (IJR) 2019 is an initiative of Tata Trusts in collaboration with Centre for Social Justice, Common Cause, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, DAKSH, TISS- Prayas and Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy.


Govt. initiatives: 

  • Through a Cabinet decision, all UTs have been mandated to undertake 33% reservation for women in the police force. 
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs has also issued an advisory to all State Governments to increase representation of women in police to 33% of the total strength. 
  • So far, 8 States viz. Bihar, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Nagaland, Odisha, Rajasthan, Telangana and 5 UTs namely Chandigarh, Daman & Diu, Lakshadweep, Dadra & Nagar Haveli and NCT Delhi have already extended 33% reservation for women in police forces.
  • National Commission for Women: the Government set-up this statutory body with a specific mandate to study and monitor all matters relating to the constitutional and legal safeguards provided for women, review the existing legislation to suggest amendments wherever necessary, etc.
  • National Policy for the Empowerment of Women, 2001: The Department of Women & Child Development in the Ministry of Human Resource Development has prepared it with the goal to bring about the advancement, development and empowerment of women in socio-economic and politico–cultural aspects.


  • No action plan: No government has developed an action plan with clear timelines to meet the 33% quota within a specified time period. 
  • Selective implementation of reservation: Very few States apply reservation for women at all the entry points (constable, sub-inspector, and deputy superintendent of police levels) or to all posts at each level. Some States (Kerala and Karnataka) have reservation for women only at the constable rank. 
  • The disparity in the representation of women across ranks: There are far fewer women at the gazetted ranks at the State level (assistant sub-inspector to deputy superintendent of police). This means that women are most prominent in the most junior ranks. 
  • Restricting women’s quotas to entry levels or select posts not only shrinks the potential pool of women recruits in a given year but also reduces the proportion of women likely to get promoted to leadership and supervisory positions. 
  • Not enough women personnel to tackle gender-based crimes: E.g. Tamil Nadu, which has the highest percentage of women personnel (17.46%) has barely one-fourth of that requirement.
  • Frequent inter-district transfers and disallowing postings in home districts for specified periods of time coupled with poor childcare support systems and lack of adequate facilities and infrastructure present distinct difficulties for women. 
  • Sexual harassment at the workplace that policewomen suffer is not adequately acknowledged. 
  • Cultural bias: Police culture associated with “masculinity” and coercive force, has an effect on the participation of women. 
  • Ghettoisation: Women are typecast — for example, they are asked to deal with crimes against women, while they are kept outside the mainstream of varied experiences. 
  • Increasing the number of recruits alone will not be enough; institutional changes embedded in principles of diversity, inclusion and equality of opportunities are as important.

Image Source: India Today