The wide-ranging debate on how to respond to violence against women in Australia has included proposals to install police stations for women, but researchers at several universities believe this move may be ineffective in addressing real issues, especially for women from indigenous communities.
Proposals to expand police powers, criminalize coercive control, and establish police stations specializing in women have been prominent in Australia’s recent debate on responses to violence against women.
There is currently no credible evidence to support the implementation of police stations for women and the research underpinning the proposal in Australia is problematic for a number of manners. The proposal to establish police stations for women has received strong support in the mainstream media and in academic journals.
These police stations would be designed to respond specifically to cases of violence against women. They have been a feature of Argentinian, Brazilian, and other Latin American countries police since the late 1980s, as well as in parts of Africa and Asia.
Some police stations for women take a multidisciplinary approach towards controlling domestic violence. They have teams of police officers working alongside social workers, psychologists and lawyers. Still, women’s police stations are still police stations.
The arguments in favour of police stations for women come largely from two university studies. These studies concluded that the public believed that women’s police stations could improve the monitoring of gender-based violence in Australia’s Indigenous communities if they had properly trained teams working from both a gender and cultural perspective.
But these investigations did not examine whether these police stations had reduced crime rates, domestic violence statistics, or arrest warrants for violence. It is difficult to assess the effectiveness of women’s police stations without this data. Evidence suggests that these police stations do not function properly.
Assessments of police stations for women have had mixed results. For example, a summary of recent evidence in India found that women’s police stations did not improve services for victims of gender-based violence.
Police studies in Australia and the United Kingdom suggest that simply increasing the number of female police officers will never be enough to improve discriminatory policing, as cases of transphobic abuse have been detected.
Despite female leadership in policing in Queensland, there have still been cases of sexism and racism among the police force, including cases where police officers were posting on social media that women lie about domestic violence. Moreover, Australia has found very little research on the experiences of black and indigenous women in female police stations.