The Police Force is no doubt very important in the implementation of the National Gender Policy. However, this may become impossible without mainstreaming gender concerns into the institutional framework and operational strategies of the Nigeria Police itself. Currently, an average Nigerian sees the Nigeria Police Force as a group of unfriendly set of uniformed men; while the force continues to attract to itself, an image of brutality, irresponsibility and outright oppression of those they are paid and sworn to protect (innocent women and men). Given the commitments shown by the Nigeria Police Force in pushing through the development of a gender policy in 2010, has the policy translated into an effective framework in transforming gender relations within the Force? Are the structural and operational reforms envisaged in the policy document manifesting? What is the state of engagement of the Nigeria Police Force with the Policy? What are the institutional, operational and logistical constraints in mainstreaming gender into the police service in Nigeria? It is against this backdrop that a policy appraisal and institutional capacity of the Nigeria Police Force for gender mainstreaming within the organization is anchored. This research will highlight the several issues that have been the key issues in the Police.
Policy Appraisal of the Nigeria Police Force:
A gender analysis of Nigeria’s laws and policies confirm that many legal instruments are discriminatory, and at best, gender blind. Ranging from the constitution to the criminal code, local edicts to customary laws, women’s rights have been systematically undermined. The Nigeria Police was established by Section 214 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, with the mandate to ensure the internal security of the country. Despite its prohibition of discrimination on grounds of sex, the Nigerian Constitution is embedded in the patriarchal system (a society controlled by men) which produced it. For example, the 1999 Constitution is gender biased as the pronoun “he” appears in the 1999 constitution about 235 times. Section 12 of the Constitution restricts implementation of international treaties signed by Nigeria except the treaty has been “enacted into law by the National Assembly”.
Accommodation and Welfare
While male police officers married to civilian are allowed to bring their spouses to live with them in the police barracks, police women married to civilians are not permitted to live in the barracks with their husbands. Also notably, when on official duties, provision for travelling allowances are made for accompanying wife and children of male officers while the husband of travelling police woman is not entitled to any allowance (Police Force Order, No. 201 and 203). Another unfortunate policy within the police could be seen from the regulations on payment of benefits to family members of injured or deceased police officers. The Force Order No. 92:2 (ii) and No 2 (iv) make provisions for payment only to “wife” or “widow” and there was no mention of husbands of policewomen for the payment of benefits and entitlements (Police Gender Policy, 2010:16-17).
Gender Analysis of Penal Code
There are many issues in the penal code that should also be noted, a penal code which weighs heavily against women. The criminal code for instance, discriminates against women on the issue of punishment for personal assault. Section 353 of the Criminal Code states that, “any person who unlawfully and indecently assaults any male person is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for three years”. However, Section 360 of the Criminal Code prescribes two years imprisonment for the same offence on a woman or girl and the offence is termed „misdemeanor’ while that of male is termed “felony”. It is clear from the above provisions that the assaults against women attract less stringent sanctions than assaults against men, even though in most cases, women stand more risk of being violated.
Institutional Capacity Assessment of the Nigeria Police for Gender Mainstreaming
The adoption of a gender policy by the Nigeria Police Force in 2010 has not translated into transformation of gender relations and appreciation of gender issues in police operations. Both the institutional and operational reviews proposed in the policy have mostly not been carried out and the police still retain the image of a feudal, coercive force rather than a democratic, responsive public service. A direct fall-out of institutional weakness of the Police Force to mainstream gender into structural and operational reforms is the alarming rate of gender-based violence, violence against women and child abuses, especially, the girl child, which is popular in the national landscape. Training and Recruitment the Police Act 118 clearly stipulates that only unmarried women are allowed to join the Nigeria Police and married women are disqualified. The Act equally declares that any female police officer that wishes to marry could only do so with the express permission of the Inspector General of Police (Police Act.No.122-127; Force Order No.30; and Force Administrative Instructions No. 23). The exclusion of married women from joining the police and the stressful procedures to get permission to marry could amount as one of the major reasons for the low representation of women in the Nigeria Police Force. Furthermore, the Police Act restricts women to limited supporting positions and excludes them from strategic duties. According to the Police Cap121-123, FO No 30 and FAI No 23, “Police women shall only be employed on duties which are connected with women and children”.
Dressing and Nomenclature
Discriminatory practices within the police force also extend to the mode of dressing and identification of police women. Section 128 of the Police Act forbids police women from wearing earrings and using lipstick and face powder. The Act also stipulates police women to place alphabet letter ‘W’ before their rank for easy identification as women while their male colleagues are not required to put letter ‘M’ in front of their rank.
Absence of Specialized Gender Units
A visit to operational headquarters of the Police Force across zonal and state headquarters, divisional police offices show clearly the absence of specialized gender units manned by gender specialist to handle gender related cases. In many cases, juvenile and family units are always expected to handle gender cases. Police stations also lack trauma centers and other facilities to support victims of gender based and domestic violence and in most cases, often refer victims to private centers operated by civil society organizations.
Structural Weaknesses for Gender Mainstreaming
The collection and presentation of data by the Nigeria Police are not disaggregated by sex. It is thus difficult to monitor progress, personnel development and crime rate by gender. A fall-out of this absence of gender disaggregated data is the difficulty in monitoring and tracking victims of gender-based violence. The Nigeria police also lack access to modern forensic technology like DNA for investigation and detection of gender based violence, especially rape. There are also practically no professional specialist like trauma counselor, clinical psychologists, and psychiatrists for rehabilitation and investigation. A major structural weakness militating against effective gender mainstreaming in the Nigeria Police Force is the glaring absence and very low percentage of women in the police management team. It is interesting, that Nigeria has never produced a female Inspector General of Police and since independence to date, only two female officers have ever been appointed into the police management team.
Sexual Harassment/ Exploitation
Research shows that, while many of the respondents during the field work would not publicly point hands at senior officers, they clearly confirmed cases of sexual exploitation and harassment of junior and unmarried female officers by their superiors. The respondents equally declared that existing procedure for reporting such anomalies are cumbersome, stressful and unreliable. Many female officers who were bold enough to reject advances from male officers suffered victimization in form of delayed promotion and unfriendly postings. Equally worrisome is the many reported cases of sexual exploitation of female detainees behind bars by male officers, which sometime resulted into pregnancy. As indicated for harassment within the force, there are no effective procedures for reporting and sanctioning erring officers.
Engendering the Nigerian Police sector through the right framework will eliminate all gender-based discriminatory regulations and practices, and ensure that the Police Force as a major security organ of government is able to effectively deal with gender based violence within the Nigerian society. Eliminating discrimination and other human rights violations by security sector personnel is not only an obligation under international law, but creates more trusted and effective security interactions with the populace. It is expected that well researched engendering strategies will lay the ground for a strategic design and planning process that will ensure a gender-responsive framework for policy planning, operational execution, improved justice and security delivery to men, women, girls and boys.