Women Join Afghan Police Force, Despite Social Stigma

Women make up less than one percent of the Afghan police force.  And needless to say, there are overwhelming social pressures discouraging them to take such an active role in public life.  But this didn’t stop Maryam, a 22-year-old mother of three, from signing up to become one of Afghanistan’s few policewomen.  And indeed, the growing numbers of woman police officers signal increased protection for women in a society where men and women are often separated.  Hamid Karzai says that he wants 5,000 female police officers by 2014, when the United States will withdraw from Afghanistan, increasing women’s presence in the police force by five times.

The fact that Afghanistan’s president is encouraging women to join the police force, however, does not mean that there is not social pressure against such a decision.  Maryam’s father refuses to speak to her because she has joined a workplace with men who are not her relatives.

Maryam, who escaped from an abusive husband to whom she was married at the age of 12, says that her job is very empowering.  She has escaped the harassment and abuse that other police women complain about, and manages to earn enough money to support her mother, her children, and pay off her dowry.

Woman police officers are used to perform security checks on other women, and are taught basic combat and self-defense.  They also are trained to deal with abuse both of children and other women.  And while there are certainly challenges – the issue of what women should wear while serving as police officers is one of the pressing – having women on the police force opens doors to deal with violence against women.

Interestingly, some men interpret having women in the police force as a way to protect women’s honor more generally.  “It is…important to give women a voice,” said Hasibullah Kobadyani, a colonel who oversees the women’s training. “To let women know that they can speak about crimes in a way they know is safe. This is better for keeping their honour.”

Although women’s “honor” is another concept that is often fraught with problems, the fact that men are willing to train and involve women in police forces is an important step forward.

Photo from Isafmedia's Flickr photostream.

23 comments

Abbe A.
Azaima A.4 years ago

Excellent idea.

KrassiAWAY B.
Krasimira B.4 years ago

Noted with great interest.

Christine S.

I hope the Afghan women don't get raped by their fellow policemen like American service women get raped by their own comrades.

Gina P.
Regina P.4 years ago

Good for them. We should all support these groundbreaking women.

K s Goh
KS Goh4 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Henk M.
Henk M.4 years ago

Good-one ladies.. show those misogynists what its all about..

Marie W.
Marie W.4 years ago

Sounds like the Repugs are in charge of Afghanistan; oh wait, it US women they want Repshira law for..

Emily W.
Emily W.4 years ago

I fully agree with Marge.

@Helene,

They are not our enemies. Out of all the terrorists in the world only .001% of them are Muslim. Only 3% of muslims are terrorists.

Osama Bin Laden is proof of this for he massacred countless innocent Muslims.

My uncle is from Afghanistan (although he is not blood related). He would never hurt a fly. His family is currently living here as a refugee a way to get away from all of the war. They wouldn't hurt a fly either.

Emily W.
Emily W.4 years ago

The police for in Afghanistan has always welcomed women. This is because male police officers are not allowed to search women, or go into homes were a woman may be present. Therefore they need women to do these jobs.

Most of the female police officers are wives of fallen officers, but there are still hundreds of female police officers.

Its usually those who hve no connection to the police force that struggle getting in. How-ever higher and higher numbers of women are convincing fathers/husbands/other male family members to sign off on allowing them to join the police force.

THere is also higher numbers of young women joining the martial arts in afghanistan.

Marg Wood
Marg W.4 years ago

@ Helen Alard. These women are not ore enemies! Only the terrorists are. All Afghans are no terrorists!!!If you father is a terrorist does that make you one? Bigotry is not acceptable!!!