Women and the Police: Anna Chandy

[Proceedings of the Sree Mulam Popular Assembly, 3 Mar 1931, pp. 46-48]

Representation before the Assembly

21. Disabilities of Women in Courts, lock-ups etc.

Mrs Anna Chandy (Nominated) :      thanked the Government , at the outset of her representation for having nominated women representatives to the Assembly. She said that it was a matter for gratification that the sex-disabling clause in the Rules of the Assembly was abrogated during the regime of Her Highness the Maharani Regent. In like manner, Section 11 of the Municipal Regulation which disqualified women from becoming Members of Municipal Councils and the rule which debarred them from being appointed as Bench Magistrates and Panchayat Court Judges should be done away with.

Speaking about the disabilities of women in courts and lock-ups, the member said that the women who had to appear either as witnesses or as parties in law courts underwent great hardships by having to wait in the hot sun or in the verandas of courts and in the company of the most undesirable members of the other sex. In some courts, however, there were waiting sheds but they were not fit places for respectable women to wait. The agony of women waiting in court verandas in the midst of crowds of men was further aggravated by the fact that there were no convenient places for answering the calls of nature. Separate waiting sheds and urinals should be provided for women in the premises of law courts. Considerations of cost should not deter Government from providing reasonable amenities for women who would be obliged to attend law courts.

The necessity of constructing waiting sheds and urinals would not arise if some arrangement could be made by which cases in which women figured as witnesses were taken up first and disposed off early in the day. If all such cases could not be dealt with in that manner, maintenance cases under Section 366 of the Criminal Procedure Code should be arranged to be taken up first, by a circular order of the High Court. Very often, women who came from distant places with their infant children had to wait until five or six o’clock in the evening as maintenance cases are taken up last. Consequently, the poor women are exposed, on their way home, to the risk of being molested by the very persons from whom they claim maintenance.

The sufferings endured by women in police lock-ups were still more serious. Though the evil was once sought to be remedied by an interpellation in the Legislative Council, nothing had been done by the Government. Female warders attend on women convicts in the Central Prison, but in Police lock-ups women accused were in the custody of constables. The appointment of female warders for police lock-ups entailed additional expense and incidental troubles. But if the women could not be kept in custody without doing violence to their sex, it would be better if all women offenders are let out on bail immediately. That would not be too ambitious a demand in a country where women were allowed concessions even in the matter of punishments.

The legal provision that searches on women should be conducted by women was more honoured in the breach than in observance. It was all the more necessary therefore that women warders should be appointed in Police Stations. If the women employed as sweepers in the Police Stations were given slightly higher pay, they might be entertained as warders. The reform should be introduced in at least the more important Police Stations in the state.

The member concluded suggesting that until women attained a position of equality with men, special privileges should be of necessity accorded to them. Qualified women should not be kept out of the public life of the country by reason of their sex.

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