Academic journal article Connections : The Quarterly Journal

Understanding Gender Mainstreaming in Modern Law Enforcement

Academic journal article Connections : The Quarterly Journal

Understanding Gender Mainstreaming in Modern Law Enforcement

Article excerpt

Introduction

The way we distinguish between men and women is generally based on biological sex differences. An approach to the issue based on gender (rather than sex) examines how societies relate to biological diversity. Societies around the world have developed a variety of models based on different understandings and expectations for male and female roles within society. Worldwide, the roles of women and men - that is, gender - are defined by historical, cultural, and religious factors.

Gender inequality is still prevalent in today's world. According to the United Nations report World's Women 2010, statistical research has shown that "progress in ensuring the equal status of women and men has been made in many areas, including school enrollment, health, and economic participation. At the same time, it makes clear that much more needs to be done, in particular to close the gender gap."1 Societies continue to place limitations on individuals' access to work as well as the ability to enjoy certain rights based on their gender. In the twenty-first century, this is a subject of utmost importance that cannot be ignored.

The "gender mainstreaming" model has proven to be an effective tool in reversing the negative trajectory of gender inequality. Unfortunately, the gender mainstreaming concept is often misunderstood or misinterpreted, met with skepticism, or flatly rejected. Despite numerous publications and much academic research, there remains a pervasive need to talk about gender mainstreaming and to examine this issue in greater detail as it pertains to specific fields.

This article will focus on one particular dimension of this issue, gender mainstreaming in the field of law enforcement. As a senior law enforcement practitioner, I firmly believe that no modern state administration system can be effective without a gender mainstreaming strategy and action plan.

The Significance of Gender Mainstreaming

The objective of this article is to highlight the impact and positive changes that gender mainstreaming has made in the process of modernizing law enforcement institutions and to present a toolkit for those administrations who are ready to employ a gender mainstreaming program or for those who are in the nascent stages of implementation. Numerous studies have shown that gender equality in the realms of law enforcement and security directly contributes to comprehensive security. UN Security Council Resolution 1325, adopted on 31 October 2000, "reaffirmed the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in peace-building, and stressed the importance of their equal participation in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security, particularly in decision-making."2

As for the direct relationship between law enforcement reform and gender, the authors of the Toolkit on Police Reform and Gender summarize the situation thus:

Security threats and crimes are committed against all sections of society; however, police organizations throughout the world continue to be predominantly male with poor representation from certain groups. Policing has traditionally been regarded as 'men's work' because it is associated with crime, danger, and coercion. Recruitment processes ... sometimes eliminate female candidates or men that do not have 'correct' masculine attitudes. However, by having a more representative police service - one that reflects the ethnic, religious, geographic, sex, tribal, and language makeup of the community - the credibility, trust and therefore the legitimacy of the service, will grow in the eyes of the public. Increasing the number of female personnel can have concrete operational benefits.3

The most remarkable benefits of gender mainstreaming are:

* An improved security situation

* Increased public support of law enforcement activities

* Increased transparency

* The possibility to develop specific capabilities

* Decreased discrimination and increased acceptance of social diversity

* The strengthening of societal acceptance of female role models. …

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