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Gender Equality in the Public Sector: A Critical Analysis of Affirmative Action Policies in the Bangladesh Police Force

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posted on 2023-12-20, 03:54 authored by Humaira ParvinHumaira Parvin

The primary aim of this thesis is to critically evaluate the implementation of affirmative action measures in the Bangladesh Police. As the principal aim of affirmative action is to foster equality by remedying entrenched discrimination against groups of people within society, this thesis intends to examine whether affirmative action measures have been successfully operationalised in the service sector, focusing on the status of women in Bangladesh Police, or whether a range of equality strategies are required to support the advancement of substantive gender equality. In Bangladesh, affirmative action measures have been implemented in the form of a quota reservation into public service recruitment, such as the police force. However, due to a paucity of literature, the success of affirmative action measures cannot be ascertained. Although there is extensive literature on women and affirmative action in policing internationally, no such study exists in the context of Bangladesh. There are a small number of studies on policing that discuss women's issues in general, but these studies do not focus on the effects of affirmative action. In this regard, this thesis is the first of its kind as it draws on empirical evidence to explore gender relations within the police force in the light of affirmative action. Significantly, this thesis examines data generated through a series of qualitative interviews with both senior and junior members of the Bangladesh Police force to understand more about women police’s experience in the Bangladesh Police force and any barriers to women police officers’ career advancement and progression. The findings of this thesis suggest that the existing affirmative action measures have not been significant in generating equality for women in Bangladesh’s police force. Although, to a degree, these affirmative action measures have marginally increased the number of women police, beyond numerical representation, women police continue to be marginalised within the police force. This marginalisation has been revealed through the low representation of women in police and discrimination in the allocation of placements, promotions, rewards, and on-the-job training. While in theory, affirmative action is one means of securing substantive equality, in practice, the conceptualisation of gender equality in the Bangladesh Police is primarily framed in terms of formal equality, that is, that everyone is treated the same, with likes being treated alike. In practice, this approach is likely to further disadvantage women's position and status in the police. Although marginalisation and discrimination are revealed within the Bangladesh Police force’s organisational practice and processes, this thesis argues that the causes of sex-based discrimination are rooted in socio-cultural attitudes and practices. These causes cumulatively impede not only the functioning of affirmative action measures but the implementation of other gender equality strategies. This thesis suggests that without addressing the root causes of sex-based discrimination, the adoption of affirmative action measures in the form of a quota reservation in recruitment can only bring limited results. As such, drawing on existing studies on organisational approaches to gender equality, this thesis argues that an equality approach that points in different directions at national, organisational, and individual levels for addressing the root causes of inequality is best suited for facilitating gender equality in the police force of Bangladesh. This approach has been referred to as a multi-level approach in academic literature. This thesis claims that the multi-level approach involving a range of macro, meso, and micro level initiatives is required for Bangladesh Police. These initiatives include law reform, establishing separate statutory bodies to monitor the implementation of equality laws and policies addressing sex-based discrimination and sexual harassment, gender sensitisation training, and mentoring programmes targeted at both male and female police. Although these initiatives cannot change broader societal norms overnight, if systematically implemented, these macro, meso, and micro level measures are likely to facilitate women’s integration into male-dominated service-sector organisations like the police force by influencing the overall socio-cultural attitudes of the society as well as the outlook of male co-workers towards their female counterparts. These initiatives are expected to create a conducive environment for the proper functioning of affirmative action measures to strengthen women’s status in the police force and promote gender equality. Therefore, this thesis is significant as it creates a new dimension in gender studies in Bangladesh by examining the public service sector, using the police force as a case study. The findings of this research are expected to benefit the development of gender equality strategies, not only in Bangladesh but also in other developing countries of similar socio-cultural contexts.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction and Overview -- Chapter 2. Gender Equality, Special Measures, and the Role of Affirmative Action -- Chapter 3. Legal Framework for Supporting Gender Equality in Bangladesh -- Chapter 4. Integrating Women into Policing and Addressing Gender-Based Inequality in the Workplace -- Chapter 5. Women’s Status in Bangladesh Police -- Chapter 6. Existing Organisational Support for Women's Integration into Bangladesh Police -- Chapter 7. Towards an Inclusive Police Organisation in Bangladesh -- Chapter 8. Conclusion -- Appendix 1. Ethics Approval -- Appendix 2. Permission of the Police Headquarters, Bangladesh -- Appendix 3. Participant Information and Consent Form -- Appendix 4. Questions

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Doctor of Philosophy

Department, Centre or School

Macquarie Law School

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Amy Barrow

Additional Supervisor 1

Therese MacDermott

Additional Supervisor 2

Archana Parashar


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278 pages

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