LAHORE - A 35-year-old murder suspect burst into tears as she was produced before a female police officer in Lahore’s only women’s police station yesterday.

Riffat Bibi stabbed to death 29-year-old Arshad Ali at her house in Mughalpura after midnight on September 27. The lady then called the police and courted her arrest. She told investigators that she killed her cousin because he tried to harass her sexually.

Riffat, unmarried yet, was living alone in a rented apartment following the death of her father and mother. “I had no idea that he will die. I took out a knife (apple cutter) to flee rape attempt after he forcibly entered my house that night,” she said with sobbing eyes.

Riffat was handed over to the women’s police station on physical remand the other day. She confessed to the police that she killed her cousin to get rid of torture and violence. “I reacted when he started thrashing,” she said while talking to The Nation from behind the bards.

One of lady constables hugged the suspect as she started weeping. The female murder suspect then narrated the whole story. “He destroyed my life when he was alive and I am in the lock-up since he died,” she said.

Investigators say the man visited her apartment late night and made a sexual advance when she took out a knife and stabbed him only once. “The man was stabbed on his chest. There was only single wound on the body. The stabbing damaged his heart and he died of excessive bleeding,” said sub-inspector Abdul Hameed, the in-charge of the homicide investigation unit. A police source said that according to the autopsy report, the deceased died of cardiac arrest though he was stabbed in the chest.

Women rarely commit heinous crime like murder in this province where police registered more than 2860 homicides this year from January to August. Most of the female criminals are caught by police in theft, mugging, or narcotics cases.

According to some retired officers, women do prefer to confide in female officers. In most of the cases, the female suspects comfortably confess to their crimes when they are interrogated by policewomen. On the other hand, complaints of brutal torture on suspects in custody are common against male officers.

Female police officers say domestic violence pushes women to commit crimes in this male-dominated society. Even those women found involved in drug-peddling and prostitution underwent sever domestic violence at early stages.

Mobasharah Akram Rana, who works as SHO of the women’s police station in Lahore, says domestic violence accounted for most of the cases reported to women’s stations. Police mediation reduced violence for two-thirds of the complaints last month, she added.

To me personally, she said, domestic violence is worst crime. Most of the women commit heinous crimes because they had to face domestic violence for years.

Mobasharah herself has to deal with at least two cases of domestic violence on a daily basis in Lahore. It is her basic responsibility to respond to emergency calls regarding domestic violence, arrange reconciliatory meetings, and initiate legal action against the defaulters in case both the parties do not reach a settlement amicably.

“We call both the parties and give them an opportunity for full “catharsis”. Then we do counselling, and motivate the families for reconciliation. Thus, most of the issues are sorted out peacefully,” says, Mobasharah, a young and smart officer of the sub-inspector rank.

She said, “We feel much comfortable when we help victims of violence. We are bold and brave because of our uniform”. The officer says most of the women caught by police are found involved in drug-pushing and killings. “I think the male accomplices motivate the women to commit crimes like drug-peddling and prostitution because women are rarely searched at check-posts.”

Women make up just 3000 of the province's 180,000-strong force. Only, there are three women police stations in the Punjab province out of 700 plus police stations. The only women’s police station in Lahore is located on the first floor of the male police station on Lytton Road near Choburgi.

It had been very difficult for the women to serve in the police department in the past but now the scenario has changed almost. Many young and qualified women are willingly joining the largest law enforcement agency. Most of the women were recruited in the police department during the last couple of years. Among the new recruits were highly-qualified young women having masters and graduate degrees.

“Now the society accepts us and people give us respect. We feel strong in police uniform,” said constable Uzma, who stands alert outside a government building at The Mall.  Policewomen say they should be given transport facility to and from the duty points.

Last year, at least 504 women passed out of the Chuhng Police Training College on the completion of their 10-month long training. They joined the force as sub-inspectors. In Lahore, at least one female police officer is posted as admin officer or investigation officer in each police station. They are assigned investigations of ordinary crime cases like cheque dishounor and domestic violence.

Unfortunately, women are rarely posted on powerful posts. For an instance, there is no female station house officer and district police officer in the province. “This is because women are considered as spineless, and physically weak as compared to their male colleagues,” a male police officer commented.  Female officers say they must be given an “equal opportunity” to excel in the field as well.