Former Kerala IPS officer says women cops are sexually harassed by male colleagues

In a recent interview, retired IPS officer R Sreelekha narrated an incident in which a woman inspector was sexually harassed by a senior officer.
Former Kerala IPS officer R Sreelekha
Former Kerala IPS officer R Sreelekha
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During a recent interview with Manorama News, R Sreelekha – the first woman IPS officer in Kerala who retired from service in December 2020 – spoke out about sexual harassment within the police force. She narrated a particular incident when a woman Sub Inspector (SI) would come to her, asking to save her from a Deputy Inspector General (DIG) who had been predatory towards her. Sreelekha said in the interview that she would call the DIG and make an excuse as to why the woman SI would not be able to see him that day.

She was very vocal about the issues that she had to face as a woman within the force. “I heard that a DGP, who was in office when I was going to join the force in the state, said that a woman was coming to pollute ‘our department’. I have also heard a lot of abusive words from male colleagues. They’d make anonymous phone calls and shout abuses but I can recognise the voices,” Sreelekha said.

The General Secretary of the Kerala Police Officers Association, CR Biju, wrote against the allegations made by Sreelekha. “It is a question, what action did she take after hearing that a DIG behaved problematically towards a woman SI. If such an incident has happened, by hiding and saving the face of the harasser, she was behaving irresponsibly,” Biju said in a Facebook post. He also added that by not naming the DIG, she was insulting “all the officers who held the position during her tenure.” He claimed that there was no basis for her allegations of sexual harassment within the police force.

However, Vinaya NA, SI, Women’s Cell, Thrissur Rural, who has been outspoken about gender discrimination in the force for many years, said that sexual harassment is a reality for women police officials. “One should also count the harassment involved in the things they say to you, the lewd comments and language used against you. Apart from actual physical harassment. For instance, a  male official told me, ‘you have not seen proper men’. I have been called ‘thalle’ (a derogatory term for ‘mother’ in Malayalam) and many other vulgar terms. I have given complaints but there is no use,” Vinaya told TNM.

Once, she said, she complained to a Circle Inspector, about someone touching her inappropriately and his response was to humiliate her. “I have been harassed a number of times – once an officer asked me to his quarters alone, another time to go for a raid alone with him – both times I got someone to intervene and avoid it. There was a DySP (Deputy Superintendent of Police) who would keep calling to flirt with me when I would be on duty, on the way to arrest someone. One DySP asked me, ‘are we not men?’ and I said I didn’t think so. So I believe Sreelekha madam a hundred percent when she says there is sexual harassment in the police force. There are many victims within the force but no one would speak out,” Vinaya said.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, speaking in the Kerala Assembly on Monday, February 21, said, "Sreelekha IPS did not specify when she faced these bad experiences. She never shared with me about any such wrong practices happening in the police force. She had expressed her opinions but not about any bad experiences. We can take action only if she specifies what happened and during which period it happened.”

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