United Nations police officials said today that they hope a recent initiative in Georgia to set up the country’s first policewomen’s association will become a model for other post-conflict countries and allow policing to become more representative of wider society.
Peacekeepers serving with the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) have been in the country since 1993 to monitor peace agreements between the Government and Abkhaz separatists and a police component – which consists of 12 officers – was added to contribute to conditions conducive to the safe and orderly return of refugees and displaced persons.”
To try and balance the traditionally male-dominated police service in Georgia, UNOMIG’s Senior Police Adviser, Colonel Jozsef Boda, a Hungarian police officer, initiated the idea of setting up the first policewomen’s association which was inaugurated last November when 47 female police officers gathered in a town in the northwest of the country.
“This is a monumental step for Georgia and could be a model for other countries, especially for those in this region,” Grethe Stornes, a Norwegian police officer currently assigned as a Mission Management and Support Officer for UNOMIG of the Police Division told UN News Service in New York.
Echoing this view, Ms. Angela Joseph, a police officer from Switzerland assigned to the police component of UNOMIG and the one responsible for implementing the project, said that in their advisory role to the Georgian police one of the UN recommendations had been that they should have a policing institution representative of society.
Ms. Stornes said that the UN’s Police Division was also working with Member States to have more female police officers in their components, adding that associations such as the new Georgian policewomen’s group could then develop links with other female police officer associations worldwide.
Both officials also said that encouraging more female police officers into police services around the world would strengthen the approach of the police services in dealing with certain crimes, particularly those related to domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assaults.
“We have to have gender balance in the police but we also need to gender mainstream to ensure that female victims of crimes are treated in the appropriate manner and they have to have confidence in the police that they will be treated fairly,” Ms. Stornes added.
While praising the initiative for policewomen, both officials acknowledged the wider political difficulties that UNOMIG faced in Georgia, namely that the Mission was currently caught in the middle of a dispute between the Georgian authorities and the Abkhaz side.