UP govt prints full-page ads on women's safety: A look at how the state has tackled crimes against women

On Monday, the UP government published a full-page advertisement, listing the measures taken by the state to improve women's safety

FP Staff May 07, 2018 13:44:20 IST
UP govt prints full-page ads on women's safety: A look at how the state has tackled crimes against women

On Monday, the Uttar Pradesh government published a full-page advertisement on the front page of several editions of Hindustan Times, listing the measures taken by the state to improve women's safety. Titled 'Women empowerment", the ad — which appeared in the Delhi, Gurugram, Jaipur, Lucknow and Noida editions of of the national daily — lists 26 separate "state government policies and programmes for welfare of women" that are currently in force.

This comes only weeks after Kuldeep Singh Sengar, an MLA of the ruling BJP, was caught in a controversy after he was accused of raping a minor in 2017. The four-time lawmaker and his brothers allegedly gang-raped the girl in Unnao – who attempted suicide outside the chief minister's residence in Lucknow – and were also accused in the custodial death of the victim's father. Arrests in the case came only after nationwide outrage and protests demanding justice for the survivor.

"The Uttar Pradesh government, under the leadership of Yogi Adityanath, showed its commitment towards security and welfare of women in the state from the first day of assuming office last year... The government has strictly followed zero tolerance policy against crime with no interference in the functioning of police, ensuring rule of law in the state," the ad reads.

However, reports from last year reveal that crimes against women were rampant even in the months following the change of government. In the first two months of the new government, over 800 incidents of rape were reported. "Between 15 March and 9 May, 729 murders, 803 rapes, 799 loots, 2,682 kidnappings and 60 dacoities took place," Parliamentary Affairs Minister Suresh Kumar Khanna said.

UP govt prints fullpage ads on womens safety A look at how the state has tackled crimes against women

File image of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. Reuters

From the gangrape of a Dalit woman at gunpoint just days after the government swore-in in March and the kidnapping and rape of a minor in April to the rape of a woman in a vehicle in May and the rape and murder of a minor in Aligarh in June last year, crimes against women in Uttar Pradesh have made national headlines every single month since the BJP government took office.

The numbers of the previous administration, however, were no better. Uttar Pradesh recorded the highest number of crimes against women in 2016, according to the data released by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). The state registered 14.5 percent (49,262 cases) of total cases of crimes against women that year, and 20,000 cases rape involving minors.

Monday's ad also boasted of trademark schemes of the BJP government, such as Anti Romeo Squads. "In its first cabinet meeting, the Anti-Romeo Squad was constituted to check and prevent harassment and eve teasing of girls," it says. The squads, made up of plainclothes and uniformed police officers, were introduced in March 2017 to protect women from sexual harassment in public places.

With six cases registered everyday on average and 3,003 people implicated over a nine-month period in 1,706 incidents, Uttar Pradesh’s anti-Romeo squads are considered among the biggest achievements of the government, as The Indian Express pointed out in a January report. The anti-Romeo squads also issued warnings to at least 9.33 lakh people and “inspected” over 21 lakh individuals in almost eight lakh visits until Republic Day 2018.

But merely a month after the launch of the programme, these squads were reported to have suddenly vanished from parts of the state. "The anti-Romeo squads vanished from here within a month of its launch. Commuting in the area has become tough," The Times of India quoted locals of Uttar Pradesh's Baghpat district as saying. "It is becoming really difficult for girls to pass through the road and enter colleges. There is no security at all. The anti-Romeo squad is only on papers."

On the other hand, several women’s rights activists — who include human rights lawyers Indira Jaising and Vrinda Grover, and women’s rights campaigners Aruna Roy, Kavita Krishnan and Kamla Bhasin — say these groups should be disbanded because their heavy-handed tactics and moral policing leave people insecure and fearful.

The ad also spoke about the "women helpline 181", which it says has strengthened and is now equipped to tackle crime, "especially domestic violence". A December report revealed that Uttar Pradesh registered 1,99,464 cases related to harassment and violence against women on the UP police helpline in 11 months. The helpline also managed to resolved 95 percent of the cases in that period, the report said.

The ad goes on to mention the government's efforts in preventing sex determination before birth and promoting education among girls, among others.

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