By Sharanya Gopinathan
The Uttar Pradesh police have announced that they will be “anti-Romeo squads” in 11 districts in Lucknow, apparently in order to “protect” women from sexual harassment. Meerut has also launched Operation Romeo, and worryingly Inspector General of Police, Meerut zone, Ajay Anand has said that will carry out the Operation outside their colleges. The UP DGP has apparently announced that the intention is not moral policing.
But when they’re even being called “anti-Romeo squads”, how can we think that they’ll be anything but that? Romeo is a legendary lover, not a sexual harasser, and whatever the DGP intends, don’t you think that this is how it’s going to be interpreted by the kinds of losers who want to be on “anti-Romeo squads” in the first place? Already, and keep in mind that it’s barely been a day since these squads were set loose on the streets, reports have started coming in about these squads targeting couples.
This model, such as it is, was publicised by the BJP as part of their “sankalp patra” in the UP elections, and is based on an existing one in Gujarat. According to the Hindustan Times, these squads in Gujarat also frequently target women (whom they kind of weirdly refer to as Juliets), basically in order to stop couples from sitting together in public. Women activists say that these squads have done nothing to actually stop the sexual harassment of women.
Moreover, when the police themselves do an abysmal and often irresponsible job of “protecting” women, and have been frequently implicated in cases of moral policing do we really need extra-judicial bodies with no legislative legitimacy out patrolling the streets for “Romeos” and “Juliets”? We really think not.
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