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Women's Police Directorate in Bahrain: An Ethnographic Exploration of Gender Segregation and the Likelihood of Future Integration

NCJ Number
International Criminal Justice Review Volume: 18 Issue: 1 Dated: March 2008 Pages: 39-58
Staci Strobl
Date Published
March 2008
20 pages
This article presents ethnographic findings on the Women's Police Directorate in the Kingdom of Bahrain, a gender-segregated police unit created in 1970 for the purpose of managing cases that involve female and child victims and offenders, with attention to how policewomen and high-ranking policemen feel about gender segregation and the cultural, political, and social context in which such segregation occurs.
The study found that despite some support for facets of gender integration, the overall analysis of the data suggests that any move toward gender integration is unlikely to be demanded by the policewomen themselves, even a small minority. Those who supported integrative approaches spoke their minds as individuals, but did not indicate any desire to organize and mount a collective effort to press for change. Despite the findings that policewomen in Bahrain are unlikely to engage in internal agitation toward integration, political developments in the country suggest that further gender integration is likely to be initiated by the ruling family and, in some sense, imposed on the policewomen. The ruling family has expressed the desire to increase the role of women in public and private work sectors, as stated in the king's 2005 Labor Day speech. Structural changes in policing are part of an overall plan to win over foreign investment in the country by maintaining the appearance of meeting international human rights standards for gender work equality. In February 2005, the author was permitted to ask for the information on Bahrain policewomen for the purpose of research. A survey was distributed to all policewomen at that time (n=241), with 110 returning completed questionnaires. The author also observed policewomen performing their duties for approximately 8 months in 2005 and 2006. 60 references


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