Over 100 Indian women police officers will soon join United Nations peacekeepers in Liberia to respond to riots and train local police in the volatile West African country. The all-woman unit is comprised of volunteers who have served in Kashmir and north-east India countering insurgencies. According to BBC, this is only the second time that an all-female unit will be used in a peacekeeping mission.
UN advisors offered several reasons for the decision to deploy an all-woman unit. First, it is part of a deliberate effort to incorporate more women in peacekeeping operations; UN police adviser Mark Kroeker told Gulf Times, “This decision is extremely important because as we look at our deployment of women in UN police componentsÉ we still retain an unacceptably small number of 3 or 4 [percent].” Kroeker added that women forces will help the UN access more vulnerable populations that may be intimidated by or respond negatively to male officers. The unit commandant, Seema Dhundia, echoed Kroeker’s opinion, telling AP, “Female police are seen to be much less threatening, although they can be just as tough as men. But in a conflict situation, they are more approachable and it makes women and children feel safer.” In Liberia, where girls, boys, and women are often combatants as well as victims, women peacekeepers may provoke a different response.
Finally, an all-woman unit can work to change people’s views on women; Kroeker also told BBC that this decision “also sends a message to the post-conflict societies where we work that women officers can have any position and play [any] role in a police organization.”