At the conference hall in Pune police commissioner's office, inspectors and sub inspectors have assembled for a workshop, where they are being taught how to handle complaints involving sensitive issues involving the homosexual and transgender communities, live-in relationships, etc. The task of guiding these policemen was necessitated because of the increasing number of complaints by these groups or against them.
Recently, Maharashtra Police received a lot of flak for the arrest of two girls who were held because one of them had protested the Mumbai bandh after Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray died. The workshop aims to help the policemen in tackling sensitive issues like this.
At the workshop, the cops, many of whom, young men and women, listen to senior police inspector Bhanupratap Barge heading the social service branch of the Pune Police.
"The number of complaints that we are getting everyday is growing and which indicates that people are coming out openly. But many a times we see that because there is no clarity among the policemen as to how and under which sections the case is to be registered they generally tend to settle the matter without registering an FIR," Mr Barge explains. "This workshop is the first of its kind in the state and is aimed at sensitising our police force to understand the issue better," he adds.
Samapathik, an NGO working with the homosexual and transgender communities, is present at the workshop giving first-hand experience of problems faced by these communities. Bindumadhav Khire, the NGO's Pune head, explains how the police behave when any individual belonging to either of this community goes to the police station for registering a compliant, which mostly relates to sexual harassment and exploitation.
Mr Khire explains that people are today comfortable talking about these communities and the numerous issues that are associated with them. The workshop aims to teach the policemen to handle such cases with sensitivity and in a humane manner, he adds.
Sunita, a transgender who attended the workshop, admits that the police are quicker to place the blame on transgenders and homosexuals, and are usually view them suspiciously. "We agree that just like any other society, there are good people and bad people in our community too. But police should not paint us all with the same brush,'' she says.
For many young officers, the workshop was like an eye opener. "We used to face lot of problems as to how and under which sections the cases need to be registered. Whether we should treat them as male or female, but now it's clear, very clear,'' Siddhawa Jaybhaye, a woman sub-inspector posted at the Faraskhan police station which covers Pune's biggest red light area explains.
Pune has around 10,000 transgenders and there is no data available about the number of homosexuals, but experts say the overall numbers are "substantial". As society evolves and progresses, the police will find themselves facing situation which require a degree of sensitivity and objectivity. Workshops like these will go a long way in helping the police force tackle these issues.