Inspector Shazadi Gillani and Rizwana Zafar have faced their fair share of hurdles. Without the support of her father, Gillani paid for her own basic training. After the birth of eight daughters, Zafar’s parents raised her as a boy. The two now police an especially conservative northern Khyber Pakhunkhwa province. Gillani dons a burqa, and Zafar wears a faux mustache as they fend off bandits and militant forces.
As Reuters reports, the biggest battle fought by these women is one against inequality. Women in Pakistan struggle to report violence because they are traditionally not allowed to speak to male officers. In addition to opening women’s complaint desks in male police stations, women officers are fighting to get women on the force.
Of the 60,000 officers currently serving the province, only 560 are women. Zafar explains, “We are fighting a war in the workplace. We are supporting our juniors. There was no one to support us." Just how hard is it for women to find support? Gillani’s father only permitted her involvement in the force after she went on a week-long hunger-strike and gained the support of her mother. Rozia Altaf also fought discrimination, and she now runs a women’s station in Peshawar. Policemen feel that female police are less effective and less serious about their work.
But these women prove them wrong every day. Dressed as a man, Zafar helps keep Gallani safe on the job. She tells Reuters of her relationship with gender norms and with Gallani, "I don't cook. I don't have a dress. I'm not scared of anyone except God. We protect each other, we guard each other. When one is sleeping, the other is awake." The two fought off a colleague who assaulted them during an earthquake; they are there for one another through thick and thin.
But women’s police stations need more support, receiving far less complaints than men’s stations. Station head Samina Zafar explans that the conditions in the female-run facilities are sub-par: "I want this place to be like a man's police station,” she says.
These stations are crucial; it’s not enough to allow women into men’s stations. According to professor Mangai Natarajan, the majority of domestic violence cases are reported in women’s stations, and women are more comfortable speaking to women officers. Gillani hopes to see continuing improvement in the female police force and in Pakistan’s support of working women. And we do too.
Thanks to Reuters
Images via Reuters