Policewomen face prejudice, and sexual abuse.
Only 10 of the 40 districts in the provinces of Herat, Farah, Ghor, Badghis and Nimroz have female police.
Deputy Governor of Farah, Mohammad Yunus Rasooli, says at least 50 policewomen are needed in the capital city, also Farah, but there are currently only four. "We need more women to be employed in district police stations so they can have a comprehensive and good role," he says.
General Abdul Razaq Yaqubi, the security commander of Farah, told Killid there were 42 police women on the rolls in the province. According to him, most of them were illiterate, and unable to perform their duties effectively. In 10 districts in Farah there were no policewomen.
In the general's opinion women did not come forward to join the police service because of tribal conservatism, security threats and the difficulties of the job.
Badghis security commander, General Sharafudin Sharaf, confirms there are only 17 women under him while the need is for at least 150 policewomen if all the districts in the province were to be covered. He too thinks women feel inhibited by social customs and the nature of the work from applying to joint the police force.
Abdul Hai Khatibi, the spokesperson for the Ghor governor, says women's rights are affected because of the absence of women police officials. He urges the Ministry of Women's Affairs in Kabul to post women from outside Ghor to provide better security for women in the province.
Meanwhile Ghor security commander Delawar Shah Delawar says he is doing his best to improve security for policewomen to encourage more to join the force. Only 20 police stations in the province have women on their staff.
Government's failure Sakina Husainee, a representative in Herat's provincial council, blames the government for failing to have more women in the police. The current ratio is a dismal one policewoman for every 10,000 women in the country.
In Husainee's opinion a safe working environment inside police stations, and special training, would improve women's role in the police.
Najib Danesh the deputy spokesperson of the Ministry of Interior Affairs (MoI) says the ministry will continue with training programmes and special incentives to attract women to join the security forces. "It is essential to have women in the police to ensure half the Afghan population has the same rights as men," Danesh says in an interview. The MoI is seeking to raise the number of policewomen in the security forces to at least 10,000.
The MoI has plans to send two groups of 100 policewomen each to Turkey and Egypt for training. Also the taboos around women enrolling in the police like threats to their security from religious conservatives, the prevailing low levels of literacy, and social biases are being tackled through pictorial awareness raising literature, says the MoI's deputy spokesperson.
Sexual harassment What is the impact of sexual harassment in the police force on female enrollment? Killid interviewed a young policewoman in Herat who resigned after her commander sexually abused her. Sakina, a pseudonym, agreed to the interview only if her name was not revealed. She says she was abused by the police officer early last year. The 27-year-old, who was the family's sole breadwinner, now lives in Herat City with her mother, one sister and two brothers. She says she joined the police force because the family needed the money. She had been only a few months in service when her boss made sexual advances. The young woman was shaking in fear as she spoke to Killid. She refused to divulge any details of where she was when the incident took place for fear that she would compromise her security.
Officials of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) in the western provinces say they have received complaints of sexual harassment in the ranks of the police.
Assistant Director of AIHRC in Herat Mahmod Jami who monitors police performance, says they received a sexual abuse complaint from a policewoman in 606 security commandment. The complaint states one of the police commanders has sexually molested the woman. The case is under investigation by AIHRC.
Abdul Rauf Ahmadi, the spokesperson of Herat Police, agrees there is sexual harassment of women in the police force, but no complaints have been made. He adds that strict action would be taken against the men involved. Allegations of female molestation erode people's faith in the police, he asserts.
Stain of patriarchy On July 21 last year newspapers widely reported the story of a policewoman in Ghazni who called a press conference to say her boss has repeatedly propositioned her. "One of the authorities in Ghazni Police had made immoral requests for the past one month. He threatened me that if I don't do what he says he would dismiss me from my job," the woman told reporters.
Hamida Gulistani, member of the Ghazni Provincial Council, says the woman was slapped by the police officer. He had ordered the woman to wash his clothes, and insisted she go to his room to sign the attendance register, according to Gulistani. "When the girl entered the room he raised his hand. The girl got furious, and picked up the wireless from his desk and threw it out of the window to get people's attention. The man then slapped her," she told Killid.
When she met the policewoman the slap marks were still visible on her face, the member of the provincial council said.
She says incidents like this deter women from joining the police. "My younger daughter wanted to join the police but I would have never allowed her to," she adds.
Governor of Ghazni, Mosa Akbarzada, told the media the case was under investigation. But nothing further has been heard.
Oxfam, an international charity, published a report on Sep 11, 2013, about sexual harassment of women in the police force. With high rates of illiteracy, Afghan policewomen are "faced with numerous problems", says its policy and advocacy advisor in Afghanistan, Elizabeth Cameron. "Afghan police women are faced with numerous problems: social misbehaviour; sexual harassment from policemen. I think the issues are very serious. They should be tackled in all possible ways," says Cameron.
Aziza Mahaki, the head of Afghan Women and Children Support Organisation in Herat, says many policemen make women in the force clean the office and premises. Women are denied equal rights in the force, as a result many leave their jobs. Until there are reforms the presence of women in the police will remain like it is at present, she says.
Rahima Jami, Member of Parliament (MP) from Herat, also confirms the allegations of bias and discrimination against women in the police. She says there have been many complaints of sexual abuse of policewomen. She warns there can be serious repercussions if not tackled.
Herat security officials confirm there is a problem of "immoral" attitude towards women colleagues by male policemen. Abdul Hamid Hamidee, the security manager in Herat Security Commandment, blames the "improper and indecent" attitude on the lack of awareness and education in among men in the police force. At least 30 percent of policemen are illiterate, he says.
Meanwhile, deputy spokesperson for the MoI, Najib Danesh, says they have not received any complaints about sexual harassment in the police.
Countless hurdles Women who join the police have to navigate many obstacles like opposition from the family and community. Abdul Rahman Salahi, a military affairs expert in Herat, says, "The presence of a policewoman is essential for an investigation. To ensure rule of law and justice for all. (Consequently) the Afghan government should put in more effort into recruiting women, in support and training policewomen." Women must feel safe, he feels, and not become victims of threats and sexual abuse. "Only if the working environment is conducive can the government increase the number of women in the ANP," he asserts.
Killid interviewed two policewomen, Saleha and Basira, in the Herat Security Commandment. "When a woman joins the police they hear lots of unpleasant words," says Saleha. "People don't think they need policewomen. They have negative thoughts," adds Basira. "We are trying to eliminate negative thoughts," she adds, still optimistic about the future.
Women would be encouraged to join if salaries were paid on time, and there were avenues for growth and promotion, both feel.
Policewomen and Polls As Afghanistan prepares to select a new president in April Killid studied the role of policewomen in the elections. Political observer Abdul Qayum Pedram in Herat considers policewomen essential for a fair and free poll. Women voters would be encouraged to participate if there are more policewomen on election duty. "Like a society needs female teachers, engineers, and doctors, we need policewomen because our society is traditional. Policewomen should work shoulder to shoulder with men (in election duty)," he asserts.
Tariq Aryan, press officer for Independent Election Commission (IEC) in Herat, thinks failure to deploy policewomen would deter female voters from exercising their franchise. He said he has urged the MoI to take urgent action or IEC and security forces would be faced with a problem on Election Day.
In Farah, Abdul Razaq Yaqubi, the security commander, says in he has been promised 242 women for election duty from the provincial women's council. He had requested assistance from the council.
Other provinces could follow Farah's precedent.
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