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Women’s police stations / units

  • Several countries - including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Ghana, India, Kosovo, Liberia, Nicaragua, Peru, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Uganda and Uruguay have set up women’s units or police stations at a local level. The establishment of specialized women’s police stations or units in police stations was first introduced in 1985 in Brazil, and has been particularly popular in Latin America, with 475 such stations in Brazil alone by 2010 (see Case Study on Women’s Police Stations).  

  • Women’s police stations may differ in terms of their precise legal and institutional mandate. For example, in Brazil, Nicaragua and Peru, the stations are police units, whereas in Ecuador, the stations form part of the justice administration system in the executive branch of the state. In Ecuador, Sierra Leone and Peru, in line with legislation, the stations are authorized to respond to domestic violence only. Ecuadorian Comisarías do not deal with sexual violence of any kind and only less severe forms of physical violence. In other countries, such as Argentina, Brazil and Nicaragua, the stations also handle complaints of violence committed by people other than spouses. In the case of Nicaragua, the law on family violence only includes physical and psychological violence, but the mandate of the stations covers sexual violence in any context (i.e. sexual violence crimes under the penal code). In Brazil, the mandates vary widely, but most commonly the stations address family violence, particularly physical violence, threats, as well as sexual violence.

  • The stations are often staffed by specially trained female personnel and aim to improve the ability of the police to respond to the unique needs of women survivors.

  • Specialized units generally offer improved reporting facilities; support to the victims in matters such as medical care, counselling and financial help; and help survivors to initiate legal action. They often also play a role in raising awareness about women’s rights and women’s security needs within the community.

  • They have been initiated by the women’s movements, the national police service, or at other times, through the initiative of United Nations peacekeepers or civilian police (as for example in Sierra Leone and Kosovo).

  • Anecdotal reports suggest that many of these initiatives have been favourably received by women, as they are commonly viewed as being receptive and supportive to survivors. Indications of positive results include increases in reporting and convictions and expanding survivors’ access to services (e.g. counselling, emergency contraception, post-exposure prophylaxis, legal assistance and other social and economic supports). For example, in India, a study found that the establishment of 188 women’s police stations resulted in a 23 percent increase in reporting of crimes against women and children and a higher conviction rate between 2002 and 2004 (Denham 2008; Kandaswamy 2004).     

(Bastick, M., Grimm, K. and Kunz, R, 2006; Denham, 2008; Jubb, N., et al., 2008; Jubb, N., et al., 2010)

 

Promising Practice Case Study: Women’s Police Stations in Latin America: An Entry Point for Stopping Violence and Gaining Access to Justice, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and Nicaragua

Since the first women’s police station (WPS) opened in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 1985, their numbers have grown considerably, with 475 WPS in Brazil, 34 in Ecuador, 59 in Nicaragua, and 27 in Peru by 2010, among several others in Latin America. Their purpose is to provide specialized services to women survivors of domestic and/or sexual violence, though there are many significant differences among the models.

The experience of WPS in Latin America has shown that:

  • The WPS continue to be one of the most important entry points for accessing the justice system and specialized services in general.

  • The greatest contribution of the WPS has been to make violence against women more visible as a public-sphere issue, a crime, and a collective matter.

  • The WPS, along with other actors, have contributed to increasing women survivors’ access to justice (sanctions and protection measures), as well as support and referral services, a perceived reduction of violence against women, and improving women’s knowledge and exercise of their rights.

  • More effective and timely access to justice for all women requires further improvements in the WPS, such as: defending and guaranteeing women’s rights by giving information to women regarding their rights, legal procedures and other local specialized services, providing fast and consistent access to effective protection measures, accepting all women’s complaints of all forms of violence, and consistently treating women as subjects of rights; coordination with other local and national agencies for improved prevention, administration of justice,  and comprehensive service delivery; consistent enforcement of the law with perpetrators; and institutional reforms, including service protocols, ongoing training and monitoring and oversight mechanisms to ensure the WPS and operators are complying with their due diligence as duty-bearers (with  responsibilities for implementing the law).

Read the full Case Study.

Source: Extracted and adapted from Jubb et al. 2010.Women’s Police Stations in Latin America: An Entry Point for Stopping Violence and Gaining Access to Justice CEPLAES, IDRC. Quito.

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