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Policies and measures to promote retention of women

Last edited: December 29, 2011

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  • Conduct institutional assessments to identify problems within the workplace or other concerns of female personnel (of all ranks). Assessments should review policies and procedures, specifically related to sexual harassment and conduct related to other forms of violence; recruitment processes and outcomes; training and other institutional practices that may discriminate or otherwise negatively affect women; and should propose actions for follow-up by institutional management (Denham, 2008).

  • Ensure women receive equal pay, benefits and retirement packages, and that their professional roles and skills are valued (e.g. ability to work with women and girls in cases of domestic violence, communication skills to liaise with communities, role models for women in the community to participate in the security force or join community policing initiatives) and are acknowledged through promotion.         

  • Implement family-friendly policies and provisions, for example:

    • Flexible hours for shift work and leave options

    • Part-time and job-sharing opportunities for both men and women

    • Day care facilities near police stations or other security institutions

    • Nursing facilities on site with specific time entitlements for nursing mothers

    • Stress-management training (for example mentoring and other techniques)

    • Access to psychological support (e.g. counselling or peer support groups)

    • Clearly-defined pregnancy policies that are flexible, fair and safe, including:

    • Adequate maternity and paternity leave, which should meet the minimum 14 weeks maternity leave for all women established by the International Labour Organization Convention (ILO) No. 183 and some type of paternity leave or parental leave, including in cases of adoption (although no standards have been set by the ILO for such types of leave) (ILO, 2009).

    For example, Trinidad and Tobago Police Services Maternity and Sick Leave policy provides for 3 months maternity leave – one month at full-pay and two months at half-pay. In the United Kingdom, Sussex Police’s Maternity, Paternity, Adoption Policies allows 52 weeks of partially paid maternity /adoption leave, and two weeks of paternity/ maternal support leave. See additional examples of police child-related leave policies.
    • Appropriate uniforms – including during pregnancy and for body armour to respect cultural norms

    • Flexible light duty assignment options for officers, which either modify their existing responsibilities or involve a transfer to a new position, for women who prefer to or require modifications in their responsibilities during and/or after pregnancy. Light duty policies should enable a female staff member and her physician to determine whether and when a light duty assignment is appropriate rather than being mandated by police departments/ imposed on all pregnant personnel.

    • Modifications in training requirements that may be harmful to a fetus or nursing mother (e.g. exposure to lead bullets or the sound of firing guns as part of routine training), which may include delaying training requirements until after staff return from maternity leave, or providing safe alternatives to harmful materials and using simulated training exercises for pregnant and nursing personnel.

    (Denham, 2008; National Center for Women and Policing, 2005; Polisar,1998).

  • Establish specific all-women units or battalions, which may be part of efforts to increase women’s recruitment (as established in Rajasthan, India in 2010) or may be specialized units mandated to specifically work on gender-based violence. The presence of such units may help to increase women and girl’s overall confidence in police (or military in some cases) and improve reporting to them.    

  • Establish female police/military staff associations and networks, which exist at the facility level, across police and military institutions nationally (e.g. British Association for Women in Policing; South Africa Police Service Women’s Network, United States National Center for Women and Policing) or are linked with regional and international associations such as the European Network of Policewomen and the International Association of Women Police. There are also sector-specific networks emerging, such as the Women in the Security Sector – Sierra Leone and Liberia Female Law Enforcement Association. In order to be successful, staff associations should be relevant and respond to the needs and concerns of their members, and have strong leadership and capacity to mobilize resources and sustain support to its members. In addition to encouraging women’s retention and advancement in the sector, associations can contribute to legal and policy changes as well as improved service delivery by:

    • improving professional and advocacy support available to members (e.g. health information and consultation, legal services and counselling);

    • providing opportunities for networking (e.g. between national and regional associations);

    • promoting gender equality within institutions (e.g. adaptation of gender policies for security institutions in Liberia based on efforts by the Female Law Enforcement Association)

    • offering professional development, including training and mentoring (e.g. South African Police Service Women’s Network training of female police mentors)

    • recognizing member achievements (e.g. the International Association of Chiefs of Police awards members each year related to community service, mentorship, leadership, among other areas of achievement); and

    • conducting community outreach and mobilization related to community policing, women’s human rights and gender-based violence (e.g. Tanzania Police Female Network consultation with civil society facilitated the establishment of 18 victim service units in Tanzanian police stations) (Montgomery, 2011).

  • Establish a task force, unit or focal point for women officers and staff, mandated to ensure the effective integration of women in the police or armed forces through offering advice and information, coordinating training and advocating for change.

  • Establish internal and external complaint mechanisms that women officers can use to register complaints against fellow officers or superiors related to discrimination or abuse (e.g. ombudsperson in place to receive complaints of sexual harassment, discrimination or violence).

  • Closely monitor alleged perpetrators and the situation of female officers who have reported harassment, abuse or assault. This should be conducted by a specialized internal unit, with managers and senior staff aware of the complaints and responsible for monitoring the situation on a day-to-day basis. 


Spain’s Observatory of Women in the Armed Forces

The Spanish Armed Forces first allowed the limited participation of women in the military in 1988. Since then, its personnel policy has removed all restrictions on the rank, work or unit for which women can qualify. In 2005, the Ministry of Defence created the Observatory of Women in the Armed Forces, a Ministerial office tasked with facilitating the integration of women in the armed forces. The Observatory provides technical support to the Ministry and military personnel through:

  • Review of draft regulations and legislation to assess and report on the gender impact of the measures

  • Proactive information campaigns among the military and the general public to change perceptions of the roles of women in the armed forces

  • Responding to information requests from women in the armed forces and their commanding officers on matters related to human resources policies (e.g. female soldiers’ rights during pregnancy)

  • Serving outside the chain of command and separate from regular grievance and reporting procedures; the Observatory ensures that women in the military are aware of those procedures.

The success of the Observatory can be attributed to the following:

  • It is not, nor is it perceived to be, an advocate or representative of women in the military (an ombudsperson’s office now exists for male and female soldiers).

  • As a service provider, the Observatory gives impartial counselling, advice and referral to anyone in the military who may need clarification of the legislation governing the integration of women in the armed forces.

  • Its work providing gender impact analysis to the Ministry gives the Observatory credibility within the Ministry.

  • Through its consultations with women in the military, it offers a detailed understanding of female military personnel and their concerns.

Sources: Gender Equality Observatory - Spanish Ministry of Defence; Bastick, M. and de Torres, D., (2010), ‘Implementing the Women, Peace and Security Resolutions in Security Sector Reform – Tool 13’, Gender and Security Sector Reform Toolkit. Eds. Megan Bastick and Kristin Valasek, Geneva: DCAF, OSCE/ODIHR, UN-INSTRAW.


United States Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program 

As part of its Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program to address the crime of sexual assault within the military and its legal requirement under Section 577(f) of Public Law 108-375, the United States Department of Defense conducts and submits to Congress comprehensive annual reports on sexual assault in the military and prepares annual reports on sexual harassment and assault within the three military academies. The data provided in the reports provides a basis for informing future sexual assault prevention, training, victim care and accountability programming across institutions.

The sexual assault report includes: an overview of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program, highlights from the reporting period of progress made and areas of intervention, an aggregate report of sexual assault incidents, next steps and strategic observations. The report also contains detailed tables of statistics gathered and annexes with relevant legal and policy guidelines. Cases cover reported assaults which involve cadets or officer-cadets, as well as policies, procedures and processes implemented in response to sexual harassment and violence during the Academic Program Year. All reports are available to the public. 

Source: US Department of Defense. Sexual Assault Prevention and Response: Annual Reports.