'Male bastion' falls as India's first female SWAT team starts work

by Annie Banerji | @anniebanerji | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 10 August 2018 12:50 GMT

India's police force is overwhelmingly male with official data showing just over 7 percent of all officers are women

By Annie Banerji

NEW DELHI, Aug 10 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - After more than a year of being put through their paces - learning to scale buildings, defuse bombs and rescue hostages - India's first all-female commando team started work on Friday, breaking a traditionally male bastion.

The 36 women underwent 15 months of rigorous training in weapons handling, counter-terrorism and Krav Maga - the military self-defence technique pioneered by Israel's security forces - to enter the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team.

They will work alongside about five all-male commando teams in the Indian capital, said Pramod Kushwaha, a senior Delhi police official.

"These women have broken into a male bastion," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"People often have this kind of misconception that women cannot do this or women cannot do that, but I can say very proudly that these women are on par and at times better than the male commandos."

India's police force is overwhelmingly male with official data showing just over 7 percent of all officers are women, well below a government target of 33 percent.

All the women officers in the new team are from India's northeast, a region that is battling with numerous separatist insurgencies and is seen as a neglected corner of the country.

Kushwaha said women from the region were "much better at certain skills" and "sturdier also".

The new team will be part of the security operation when Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivers his annual Independence Day address from the ramparts of the 17th-century Red Fort in Delhi on August 15.

"We are very confident that these women are fully competent and there is no reason why they should not be given the high-profile task," Kushwaha said.

"They know how to fire all weapons, they can intervene any terror situation or hostage situation, be it at homes or public places like malls and markets - anything, anywhere.

"It's amazing because some of the best male commandos cannot do what these women can do." (Reporting by Annie Banerji @anniebanerji, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian issues, conflicts, land and property rights, modern slavery and human trafficking, gender equality, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories)

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