Deepa Kandaswamy / K. Deepa report in Ms. Magazine:
Tamil Nadu has always been progressive regarding women, electing the first female chief minister (a state chief minister holds the power of a U.S. state governor). It boasts the first women’s university, first women’s engineering college, first female-staffed police station, first all-female police commando company, and now the first women’s special-forces police battalion. This didn’t happen overnight. The idea began with All Women Police Stations (AWPS), a brainchild of India’s first elected female chief minister, J. Jayalalitha, who started the first AWPS in 1992. Today, there are 188 AWPS, one in each Tamil Nadu district, along with two toll-free help lines — Woman in Distress and Child in Distress — through which anonymous complaints are pursued at the same priority level as regular complaints. The result: a 23 percent increase in reporting of crimes against women and children — and a higher conviction rate. Several other states have started pilot AWPS.
Their academic training includes such topics as psychology, terrorism and guerrilla tactics; gender-sensitizing programs are emphasized, plus counseling and investigative techniques. The training concludes with a 440-mile, three-day footrace — and no sleep for 72 hours. While police commandos are similar to SWAT teams used in special operations, they can also be deployed swiftly as part of the reserve police force, along with defense forces, in counterterrorist operations.
Undoubtedly, it helps to have a woman at the political helm promoting female empowerment. Considering anxious security situations in other countries, with slightly more than half the world’s population being female, Tamil women believe women everywhere can learn to maintain security — and have a say in politics.
Read more here.