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Noise over ‘Romeos’ sidelines women’s bigger concerns in Uttar Pradesh

From January 1 to March 31, 2017, UP Police recorded 873 complaints of rape, 2,333 of “outraging modesty”, 2,243 of “atrocities”, including domestic violence and harassment over dowry, and 3,011 of kidnapping during the same period..

india Updated: May 21, 2017 08:39 IST
Snigdha Poonam
Snigdha Poonam
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Crimes Against Women,Anti-Romeo Squad,Uttar Pradesh
The Anti-Romeo Squad of Uttar Pradesh Police questions a youth in Lucknow.(REUTERS File)

Since Yogi Adityanath took charge as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, he has made harassment in public places his government’s priority with respect to crimes against women.

However, while anti-Romeo squads continue to pick up men and couples , crimes more threatening to women’s safety appear to be slipping into oblivion.

From January 1 to March 31, 2017, UP Police registered 127 complaints under IPC Section 294, which lays down the punishment for obscene acts or words in public. In comparison, the police recorded 873 complaints of rape, 2,333 of “outraging modesty”, 2,243 of “atrocities”, including domestic violence and harassment over dowry, and 3,011 of kidnap during the same period.

“Domestic violence is the biggest problem women face in UP,” said Pushpa, a domestic violence survivor, who runs the women -focussed NGO Vanangana.

The maximum number of complaints the NGO receives are related to domestic violence. “Then there are rapes, murders, kidnappings. We also look at cases of suicides among women, since most of the cases would come under murder if you consider that someone else is always responsible for it,” she said.

Activists argue that these issues don’t just affect women living in the interiors of the state. “The biggest problems women face are related to domestic violence, rape and acid attacks,” said Meena Soni, an acid attack survivor who runs the NGO Sadbhavana in Lucknow. “But I don’t see the government doing anything about them. We followed the CM’s promise to grant an acid attack survivor Rs 1 lakh, but nothing has come out of it,” she said.

Soni said that acid sale continues to be unregulated in the state despite court directive and the government wasn’t doing anything to check it. The activist also claimed that the state government had failed to help victims of domestic violence get justice.

“Survivors of domestic abuse continue to make rounds of courts seeking justice, but the accused don’t even feel the pressure to show up. It’s the same case with survivors of dowry harassment. If the government wants to do something for women, it should take steps to enforce the laws covering these offences,” she said.

While women appreciated the Adityanath’s attention to public harassment, they feared that the excessive attention on street harassment may swallow up the discourse on crimes against women.

Earlier in April, women activists submitted a petition to Adityanath asking him to disband the anti-Romeo squads: “This is not the route to ensure women’s safety and security. In fact these squads are curbing women’s and girls’ right to mobility, consent and decision making.”

However, police said the squads were a step in the right direction. “Just because there is no focus (on other issues) doesn’t mean there is no direction (from the top) to deal with other crimes against women,” said a police officer.

The UP government also sees no reason to change its strategy. “Crimes against women have come down in the one month since the new chief minister took charge,” said Suresh Rana, a minister in the state government. “ The government has also been talking about women’s issues other than eve-teasing, but that has not been noticed.”

First Published: Apr 27, 2017 06:49 IST