archana-ramasundaram-ips-knowyourlawARCHANA RAMASUNDARAM IPS
At a young age, Archana Ramasundaram made an uncommon career decision and joined the Indian Police Service. Today, more than two decades later, she is the Joint Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation. She is also a committed activist determined to ending discrimination against women in her country.
“This is a land of sharp contrasts: on the one hand, we have had distinguished women leaders like former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and also Dr Vijaya Laksmi Pandit, who was the President of the UN General Assembly,” says Ms Ramasundaram. “But they were exceptions. The majority of women in India suffer due to poverty, poor health, rigid traditions, deprivation and discrimination, and the most unfortunate among them become the victims of violence.”
As a female police officer, Ms Ramasundaram has made it her mission to improve the way in which the force handles violence against women. “Fundamental changes are needed in concept, attitude, training and, above all, motivation to bridge the wide gap between enactment of laws and their implementation,” she says. “The responsibility of police officials is the most crucial, as they are the first to intervene, and any imperfection in their performance is bound to affect the later stages of an investigation.”
Indian women were granted important constitutional and legal rights following independence. The Constitution of India adopted a landmark step in this direction by guaranteeing full equality and liberty to women and prohibiting trafficking. There are several schemes for welfare and growth of women. Moreover, the Constitutional Amendment in India in 1993 ushered in a new era of affirmative action by reserving one-third of seats in local government bodies for women. Nearly one million women are members and chairpersons of these bodies. Another revolutionary bill, reserving 33.3 per cent of parliamentary and state assembly seats for women, is pending before Parliament.
“Laws and development schemes have obviously not made the desired impact on the level of violence against women,” says Ms Ramasundaram. “Due to the traditional mindset in India, gender issues still do not command the attention they deserve. There is an unfortunate lack of desired focus, and the police are often not able to accord priority to such cases in view of their huge workload. In addition, the police force is male-dominated, and the gender-bias shows in their attitude towards violence against women.”
With that in mind, Ms. Ramasundaram works to bring a women’s rights perspective to the law enforcement in her country by establishing new police approaches to assist victims of gender violence and arrest the perpetrators.
“The essence of my career as a policewoman for the last twenty-two years has been all about caring and controlling caring for women and controlling those who harm them,” says Ramasundaram. “My work has not been easy; dealing with violence against women has so far not been a high-enough priority for the Indian police. But the relief on the faces of the women I have helped has convinced me that I am on the right track.”

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