Forget anti-Romeo squads, address violent crimes: UP's women's rights activists
Since coming to power, UP CM Yogi Adityanath has identified women's safety as top priority. Anti-romeo squads were set up as a hallmark initiative to crackdown on eve-teasing. However, according to women's rights activists and cases filed with the UP police, violent crimes against women including acid attacks and rapes are more pressing concerns that need to be urgently addressed.
Crime against women in UP
UP has the highest number of women's abduction cases in India and is ranked second in rapes. Further rapes have seen an almost five-fold increase from 7 per million in 2005 to 30 per million and kidnappings have increased from 16 to 56 per million.
What have the anti-romeo squads done so far?
Anti-Romeo squads have been set up under the state's police force in 11 districts. They work towards making public places safe for women, by cracking down eve-teasing. Although Yogi has ordered police forces to tackle moral policing, the squads have reportedly continued to round up innocent men and couples. The anti-Romeo squads have arrested dozens of men across districts including Shamli, Gorakhpur and Moradabad.
What do the latest figures reveal?
In between January and March 2017, the UP Police registered 873 complaints on rape, and 2243 complaints under atrocities including domestic violence. Further, comparing data from 2015 and 2016 reveal a slight increase in crimes against women including public place harassment and outraging modesty. While the number of rapes increased from 2247 to 3419, dowry death cases increased from 2280 to 2407.
What do the activists say?
Pushpa, head of women's rights NGO Vanangana notes, "Domestic violence is the biggest problem women face in UP". She further added, the complaints fall under heads including rapes, murders and abetted suicide. Meena Soni, acid attack survivor and head of Lucknow-based NGO Sadbhavana notes, that sales of acid continue to be unregulated in the state in the absence of efforts to monitor the same.
Petition to scrap anti-romeo squads
Women activists in UP in early April presented a petition to Yogi Adityanath asking him to scrap anti-Romeo squads. It noted that this is not the route to ensure women's safety. These squads are curbing women's and girls' right to mobility, consent and decision making.
How can the situation be addressed?
Anti-Romeo squads have been set up as part of the "broken windows policing approach" attempting to tackle and discourage criminals from smaller crimes like eve-teasing in order to deter them turning to more violent crimes. Women's safety can be more effectively tackled through incorporation of women's perspective on what they need to be protected from, in this case more violent crimes against women.