Published: 18th March 2017
From breaking stereotypes to saving lives, in khaki
IPS officer, Rema Rajeshwari shares her tale of overcoming obstacles, her campaign to raise awareness of child sexual abuse and many more.
“An interview? Definitely! Let’s catch up after my session,” said the voice on the other end of the phone. It was Rema Rajeshwari IPS, the SP of Mahbubnagar in Telangana, and I was quite amused as I could feel my fear of police officers disappear. Fast forward a couple of days, there I was at TNIE’s ThinkEdu Conclave, waiting outside the conference hall to interview her. An hour-long panel discussion and Rajeshwari substantially improved her fan-base with students and other attendees surrounding her for selfies and autographs.
“How old are you?” I enquired. “I’m 37, but you can say that I’m 27 and that there was a typo,” she laughed. I had so much to ask this captivating officer and she had so much to share. Here is the story of her life:
Black sheep of the family
It is difficult for women to break gender stereotypes and move forward. When a man wants to pursue nursing or teaching, jobs traditionally done by women, his sexuality is questioned. When a woman wants to enter male-dominated fields like science and technology, everything about her is questioned. When I decided that I wanted to be an IPS officer, the response that I got was absolutely negative. My own parents didn't believe in me. I quit my job as a software engineer and lived in Delhi as a copyeditor to support my education. My parents were ashamed to introduce me. But ultimately, I just went ahead and got through the exams.
Following outdated norms
Clearing the civil services examination is a long process, often stretching to more than a year. If you don't clear the interview, you’re back to square one. It usually happens at the time when a girl is fresh out of college and there is time for her to have a career, get married and have children. Most of the parents think that it is apt for a woman to settle for a traditional job of a nurse or a teacher.
Never give up
Surviving in the department is difficult for a woman. You have to prove yourself on a daily basis. People don't always understand your needs. I was an assault commander in my first posting. I was the only woman on the team and I had to stay in a jungle for ten days. You get only three hours of sleep. Even to attend nature's call, you can't go where the men go. Team leaders often look at them as additional baggage. But I have always advocated that we need to have more women in the department, so that we become more gender sensitive.
Brave heart: Rema Rajeshwari delivers her speech at the ThinkEdu Conclave
What happens to the victims?
When I was working as an Additional SP in Nalgonda, one of my special branch constables received information of a hostel for rehabilitated children. A tutor who stayed there raped almost 22 girls aged 8-15 over a period of time. Nobody spoke about it and there was no response from the institution. The tutor was asked to compensate the victims’ families so that they would let the matter go. We heard about it and immediately lodged a case and had him arrested. It was a huge task for me to counsel the girls and rehabilitate them. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough institutions to rehabilitate the victims. Rescuing is the easiest part of my job. There are cases where fathers rape their own daughters. You arrest the father, but then what happens to the girl? Invariably, she still stays in the same house.
Dear child, you’re safe
We have several cases of child sexual abuse. In 99 per cent of the cases, the accused is very close to the victim. To create awareness, we launched the Balyaniki Raksha campaign where we go into the community and encourage the children to speak up. We screen videos and short films where we explain good touch versus bad touch.
Not just for men
Even though there are vacancies in the forces, women aren’t aware of it. I think the media should help us there.
A big word like feminism
I really don’t understand the concept of feminism. People talk of equal rights and that is great. As a police officer, I’ve dealt with cases where the most horrible perpetrator is the mother-in-law. Women need to be supportive of other women rather than talking about feminism. We should stop being critical of other women first.