Police organizations around the world play an important role in the society. They are responsible for the maintenance of peace and order; upholding the rule of law and carrying out their duties such that they are sensitive and mindful to the needs of members of the community. Police around the world are undergoing one form of reform or the other and this aimed at trying to improve their response to, and protection of, individuals and communities they serve. Reform is driven by various factors namely; internal reviews, public pressure, government decisions, international attention and/or post conflict recovery. The process supports the establishment of strengthening of an accountable, effective, equitable and rights – respecting police organization. A central pillar on which a viable police reform agenda is built is the need to focus on ensuring that the security needs of diverse groups within its community are properly understood and incorporated into the structure and operations of the police.
The continued poor representation and status of women in the Nigeria Police Force is derived from layers of discrimination and exclusion suffered by female members of the Nigerian society. Therefore to understand the status of women within the Nigeria Police Force there is a need to understand the discriminatory rules; it should be investigated, analyzed and explained by applying insights provided by concepts of gender and patriarchy.
The Nigeria Police Force is not isolated from the discriminatory practices and norms that are prevalent in the country. This has led to poor internal control mechanisms that should be aimed at reducing to the barest minimum or possibly totally abolishing gender based discriminatory practices such as sexual harassment.
In modern day policing, the police organization should be representative of the community it serves; it should aim at providing support and essential services in the area of ensuring the safety and security of its local community members. To do this, the Nigeria Police Force should embark on the development of a gender policy which would cover recruitment, training, deployment, promotion and accountability issues in the organization.
In 2001, Centre for law enforcement Education, Nigeria (now CLEEN Foundation) carried out a study which was aimed at analyzing the status if policewomen in the Nigeria Police Force with a view to identifying the level of representation and career suspects of women in the Force. The study also anaylsed the organizational rules, regulation and culture that either enhance or inhibit the participation and performance of women within the Nigeria Police Force, on equal basis as their male counterparts.
CLEEN Foundation had hoped that the findings of the study would provide framework for institutional reforms which would be geared towards increasing the representation of women in the force and improved gender relations within the police force and the wider Nigerian society.
The aspirations of CLEEN Foundation has somewhat been fulfilled but there are opportunities for improvement. For example the quota for recruitment of women into the Force was put at 20%. In November 2009, UNIFEM organized a training workshop for police officers which took place at Bolingo Hotel in Abuja during the workshop areas of gender issues that are related to policing were identified as follows: searches, recruitment, posting, application for marriage and female officers losing their official accommodation within the barracks once that are married to civilians.
To ensure a gender sensitive police organization as part of the on going police reform initiatives in the country; there is a need to ask the following critical questions:
1. Are women adequately represented in the NPF to foster a sense of belonging in women. The reason we need to ask this question is because an organization that is internally gender baised is ill equipped to be responsive to gender needs in the community;
2. Do the current policing practices / approach respond innovatively to identified gender specific needs and insights that have been derived from new learning about gender relations within the community or retain prejudices?
In conclusion we need to ask ourselves what needs to be done? To provide some answers we should take steps to do the following:
1. We need to conduct a situation assessment in the form of a gender responsive assessment or audit on specific gender issues. For example, women’s recruitment, promotions and deployment; gender responsiveness of internal or organizational policies and protocols; training approaches and responses to domestic violence;
2. We should aim to validate the basis of action by demonstrating empirically the presence of a problem;
3. We need to advocate for the adoption of a gender sensitive policies, protocols and guidelines;
4. We need to review operational framework for example develop guidelines that respond to gender based violence;
5. Develop and commence implementation of gender training;
6. Skill / capacity building is a must because it is possible to make people sensitive but not have the capacity to be gender responsive;
7. Structural reform in the Nigeria Police Force is also imperative. This can be done by integrating gender into the work of existing human rights desks within the police formations;
8. The Police need to consider establishing specific units to deal with GBV cases to provide improved victim reporting and police response to GBV;
9. There is also a need to integrate policing services with other services required by victims of GBV, this would facilitate and increase access to other legal, medical and psychological structures.
‘Kemi Asiwaju (Mrs) is the Deputy Executive Director of CLEEN Foundation (www.cleen.org)