n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Gender discrimination versus equality in the police

Volume 18, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



The problems that women experience in the policing environment relate to the fact that policing has traditionally been a male-dominated function with the accent on strength and militarism. Consequently, as more women became police officers this male-dominated environment created barriers against women essentially as a protective mechanism but also as a result of the basic differences between men and women. This has resulted in sexual harassment, power struggles and the re-definition of the roles of women as based upon the South African Constitution (1996) and the success of women in their roles as police officers.

A literature review was conducted and it is evident that gender discrimination in the police exists worldwide. Various barriers to the promotion of women were identified, such as stereotyping of women (and men), unequal remuneration, bias against women and perceptions of incompetence. Women are also victimised in the workplace by the use of raunchy language of some of the male police officers as well as the ignorance on the part of their supervisors on their role as homemakers after working hours.
Some progress, however, has been made towards limiting the incidence of discrimination, and more women are entering the male-dominant domain of policing. Even though male police officers may initially dislike the presence of women in the job situation, there are potential benefits not only for policewomen but also for members of society due to the unique abilities of women. Female police officers should be seen as part of the human resource component of the SAPS, because they are competent, knowledgeable and dedicated. Their approach to policing also provides new options, such as a concern for the victims of rape and child abuse victims, options which were not as readily available when policing was done mostly by men.

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