The reform of the Afghan National Police is a good example of the role women can play in the establishment of the rule of law. Since 2003, the SDC has supported the recruitment of women by the Afghan law enforcement authorities. Experience has shown that the presence of policewomen helps reduce violence against women and contributes to a climate of peace and security.
933 policewomen recruited over a four-year period
Between 2010 and 2014, 933 women were recruited into the Afghan police force through a fund administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with support from the SDC. By the end of 2014, the total number of policewomen was 2,229, still fewer than 2% of the total number of police officers nationally. But the way forward has been set.
In order to facilitate the professional integration of female police officers with their male colleagues, programmes to raise awareness of gender equality have been organised within the Afghan police force. The ministry of the interior has set up its own gender equality unit and new laws aimed at protecting female police officers from the violence they are sometimes subjected to by their male colleagues have been adopted.
Improving the image of the police
The recruitment of more policewomen is one of a number of measures of a major programme to reform the Afghan police force which was launched in 2002. Supported by various donors and implemented by the Afghan national authorities, these reforms aim to fight corruption and impunity in the law enforcement authorities and thereby improve the public image of the police.
The nationwide introduction of an electronic payroll system for the police has made the flow of funds more transparent. Public awareness campaigns on the role of the police and mechanisms to make it easier to file reports to the police have been developed. This has strengthened the professionalism and integrity of the police.
Gender-mainstreamed police stations
The gradual transformation of the police force is also making it less remote in the eyes of ordinary citizens. Aside from giving the police force a new face, the recruitment of female police officers has enabled it to deploy female officers in local police stations.
To date, 165 family response units have been set up in police stations throughout the country. Afghan women thus have official points of contact to report domestic violence to the police, where they can also find shelter and protection if they need it. The situation is completely different from the days when police stations were exclusively run by men, which often discouraged women who had been victims of violence from reporting the abuse.
It goes without saying that even when an incident is reported, it will not necessarily result in a conviction. But there is every reason to believe that over time impunity for acts of violence will decrease and along with it violence against women in general. Increasing the share of women in the Afghan police forces thus meets the broader objective of strengthening the country's social cohesion by placing a high priority on gender equality and focusing on the contribution men and women can make together to the efforts to consolidate peace in Afghanistan.