How UP’s anti-Romeo squads are harassing random men

Why are random men being trashed on streets by cops?

Recently, India’s largest state by population, Uttar Pradesh (UP), elected the conservative pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) into power. They in turn appointed a man named Yogi Adityanath as the Chief Minister (CM). This is a state which feminists would describe as a stronghold of patriarchy. They would also describe the CM, Yogi Adityanath, as a bigot and a misogynist. He is an actual member of a Hindu religious order. He is also known for writing essays criticizing Islam, western feminism and supporting Hindu supremacy. In a particular essay titled “Matrushakti: Bharatiya Sanskruti ke Sandarbh mein” (translation: Women Power: In the context of Indian culture), he argued that women should be given equality lest they see themselves as downtrodden and turn to western feminism, destroying the traditional family values (page 3).One would imagine that his reign would bring nightmares to the women of UP. But instead, the first move he made as CM was address the issue of women’s safety by ordering the police to form anti-Romeo squads. This is a state with severe problems like overpopulation, pollution, unemployment, and basic sanitation. Now this supposed bigot and misogynist was making women’s safety his first priority. The feminists couldn’t believe it. They thought he had lost his mind.

The primary aim of these anti-Romeo squads is to patrol and check crimes against women, primarily cat-calling. Roadside-Romeo is an Indian euphemism for a cat-caller, while eve-teasing refers to cat-calling. In UP, these special police patrols planted themselves in and around places where young women frequent, such as university campuses, near schools, public parks, bazaars and malls. Sometimes members of these squads roam around in plainclothes to caught the cat-callers unaware.

The concept of anti-Romeo squads is not new in India, but for first time they’re acting under the directives from a CM. Sometimes when reports of crime against women increase in a district, the police may form such patrol groups. Sometimes citizens also form watch-groups with similar objectives. However, most of the time all these devolve into Taliban-style morality preaching squads. These are frequently used by conservative parents of girls to threaten boyfriends they don’t approve of. They are also used for petty revenge and extortion. The boys caught by them are usually booked under the anti eve-teasing law or IPC Section 509, under which only men can be charged. This law has been misused so much recently that it had a conviction rate of only 10% in 2015 according to the National Crime Records Bureau.

As expected, the anti-Romeo squads in UP have turned to moral policing. They have begun questioning couples hanging around in parks and malls. If found to be unmarried, the couples are subjected to a heavy dose of moral lecturing and quite often the boy is assaulted for leading the girl astray. The girls are usually let off which a warning as they are thought of incapable of any immorality.

The issue was taken to the state High Court which backed the squads and refused to accept what they were doing is moral policing. The feminists have begun protesting these squads. They argue that these squads are causing greater fear among women than cat-callers, as women can be pulled up for merely talking to a man.

However, it should be noted that these conservative squads fashion themselves as gallant rescuers of damsels in distress. The real victims are thus the men who are fined, assaulted and humiliated. The women are sometimes subjected to lectures and held until their parents pick them up, at worst.

In a particular incident, the squad tied up, kicked around and tonsured a 21-year-old man who gave a lift to his female classmate. His ordeal was captured and circulated online for its apparent hilarity by one of the cops. The girl was allowed to leave unmolested. The guy was then charged with illegal assembly of all things. One cannot have a cat-calling charge without a victim after all.

In another incident, 40 overenthusiastic cops raided a private resident only to catch a female student taking study notes from her tutor. They were taken to the police station where they were interrogated by the police to their satisfaction, following which they were released to their family members. The tutor would probably think twice before taking on a female student in the future. He was just trying make an honest living.

Another unbelievable incident occurred when a 18-year-old boy was caught when he was accompanying his female cousin to a shop. They were held at a police station until their relatives arrived. The boy was made to pay a INR 5000 (USD 77) bride to avoid charges. They managed to film the exchange and had to approach a state assembly-man to seek justice.

It is possible that these squads may have prevented some cat-calling, possibly even some cases of rape and schoolgirl grooming. But the question is, is it worth living in a state of constant terror. Everyday police blatantly pick up random boys for hovering around schools, colleges, cigarette stalls, betel shops and even pastry shops for “questioning”. A boy who was similarly harassed told The Times of India, “For them, any young boy in public on a bike is a ‘majnu’ (Romeo).” A father whose son was picked up said, “It is not the police’s job to decide where boys can stand and where they cannot. My son is 19, and is an adult. It makes no sense to call up his father to say that his son is loitering around.” Everyday people keep posting new videos and pictures of young men begin mocked, humiliated and being handed corporal punishment in public. (Although the government has prohibited cruel and humiliating punishments in public, they continue to be reported.)

From all of this, one comes away with impression that this so-called patriarchal government wants to protect women so much that every single man is a potential rapist. Now, more conservative states are copying these so-called crime prevention tactics. Today, Haryana launched a similar program under the name “Operation Durga” (named after the Hindu goddess of war). Under the ongoing scenario, it is prudent for young men to avoid women, even their own relatives, in public for their own safety. They should also refuse to give lift or tell directions to female strangers. This should also serve as an eye-opening to anyone who thinks conservative political parties are pro-men and anti-feminist. They are gynocentric like all the left-wing parties, but have a different way of expressing it.

Woman bikes through Middle East to prove it is safe for women

You probably have heard of Pippa Bacca who decided to hitchhike from Italy to the Balkans to the Middle East wearing a white wedding dress, to send a message of peace and “marriage between different peoples and nations.” She was raped and murdered in April 2008 by a driver who offered her a lift in Turkey.

Undeterred by this incident, a British female reporter, Rebecca Lowe, decided to ride a bicycle from London to Tehran in July 2015. Her account was recently published by BBC and Huffington Post. According to her,

My aims were simple: develop enviably shapely calves, survive and shed light on a region long misunderstood by the West.

Mostly, I wanted to show that the bulk of the Middle East is far from the volatile hub of violence and fanaticism people believe. And that a woman could cycle through it safely.

In my opinion, cycling is slightly safer than hitchhiking as you don’t have to rely on strangers all the time. However during the trip Rebecca Lowe was almost raped like Pippa Bacca several times, according to her own account,

In Jordan, Egypt and Iran, I was groped, ogled and propositioned with disappointing regularity.

In Egypt, one randy tuk-tuk driver got his comeuppance following a juicy bum squeeze by being beaten to a pulp by the police convoy on my tail – my horror at their brutality only outdone by my undisguised glee.

In Jordan, a truck driver who’d picked me up following a puncture repeatedly asked for kisses and grabbed my breasts. Fortunately his bravado ceased abruptly at the sight of my penknife wafting ominously close to his crotch.

So it seems that she was provided with a police escort at some places, probably because they did not want a dead reporter on their desks. At some places, she had to do her business outdoors due to a lack of toilets,

Toilets were a serious concern. In the remote gold mining regions of northern Sudan, where few women ventured, there simply weren’t any.

“Look around you,” a man at one roadside shack told me, gesturing to the entirely exposed desert behind him. “The Sahara is your toilet.”

At a party in Tehran, she discovered a very interesting fact from a female lawyer,

The lawyer told me that only around a fifth of the women at the party were likely to be virgins, but the rest were probably having anal sex to preserve their hymen. ‘The men here are among the most open-minded in Iran,’ she said. ‘But underneath they still want their wife to be a virgin.’

But in the end, how did she rate her experience?

So is it safe for a woman to cycle alone across the Middle East? With the right precautions, yes.

Would I let my daughter do it? Absolutely not in a month of Sundays – are you mad?

If you won’t let your daughter do it, then how can it be considered safe at all? There are millions of women and girls living in the Middle East. Should they be all considered safe? These articles serve as a reminder of this strange relationship western media has with Islam and Middle East. They are quick to condemn the slightest slight inflicted on Muslims in the West. But mostly downplay the human rights violations being carried out in Muslim-dominant nations.

Man complains to waitress about roaches, gets slapped and charged with sexual harassment

On 25 March 2017, a video clip went viral in India. The video was taken inside a Cafe Coffee Day outlet in Jaipur. Cafe Coffee Day is a large chain of cafes in India. The video shows an ice cream freezer and a male voice could be heard saying that the freezer contains cockroaches and the staff had placed menus on the glass-top to hide it. Then the camera points at a female staffer who is also seen filming with a phone. The male voice says that this particular staff member had shouted at him and told him to stop complaining. At this point, the female staffer rushes towards the camera and the resounding sound of a slap is heard. She could be heard saying, “Why did you take my picture?”

The video was shared and reshared several times on the social media. People complained about the overpriced beverages served at Cafe Coffee Day and their unhygienic cafes. Several vowed that they would boycott the company. Soon mainstream media picked up the story. After the issue was forced into the spotlight, the company responded with the following statement:

“This incident has been brought to our notice and is currently under thorough investigation. The lady team member referred here hails from rural Orissa and is part of the programme run by NGO Gram Tarang to uplift weaker sections of society and girl child specially. She underwent rigorous training on joining us to become a team member and was posted in Jaipur. As per lady team member, she had objected to her video being taken by the customer and her repeated requests were also not heard, thus invading her privacy. Till the time thorough investigation is being done, lady team member has been kept off duty.”

The statement is quite sly because of two reasons. First the company tries to shift the focus from how unhygienic its outlets are to how its social welfare programmes are benefiting the society. Then instead of apologizing of the aggrieved customer, they accuse him of violating the waitress’s privacy. Given the current public sensitivity towards crimes against women in India, this is a very clever attempt to put the ball in their court.

Soon afterwards it was reported that the woman had filed a sexual harassment complaint against the man. In the complaint, she claimed that the man and his friend had threatened to grope her and called her a bitch and a slut. Now the social media has split on the issue whether the woman was actually sexual harassed or not. The fact that there were roaches in the fridge and a man was assaulted has almost been forgotten. The man who is the victim in this case has now tweeted that companies’ lawyers are bullying him so that he would withdraw the cases. He has also tweeted to the Prime Minister’s Office’s Twitter handle requesting intervention in this case of blatant misuse of sexual harassment laws.

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Feminists are mad that Casey Affleck won an Oscar

Recently, actor Casey Affleck was awarded the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in Manchester by the Sea. Soon after the announcement, feminists on Twitter had an collective outburst because Affleck had been accused by two coworkers for sexual harassment in 2010.
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Most feminists expressing their outrage either did not know or choose to ignore the fact that the charges against Affleck were never proven and both accusers had accepted the out of court settlements.

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One of the feminists tweeted, “Casey Affleck won Best Actor. Donald Trump is president. Tell me again how sexual assault charges can “ruin” a man’s career. 😒” Thus refusing to acknowledge millions of men worldwide who have had their lives ruined due to false accusations.

The Vogue Australia reported that actress Brie Larson who was on stage while the award was presented did not applaud, apparently because she is an advocate for sexual assault survivors and won her own Oscar for the portrayal of a sexual assault victim in the film Room. Constance Grady writing for the Vox detailed the accusations that had been brought against Affleck and claimed that “hurting women often does not hurt men’s careers — not if they’re rich enough and white enough.” She also mentioned that actor Nate Parker’s career had ended after an old rape accusation resurfaced but added that should count as “Nate Parker is black.”

UK MP tries to make new domestic violence law gender neutral, but fails

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Image source: Gratisography

On 24 Feburary 2017, UK MP Philip Davies spoke non-stop for 91 minutes in an attempt to turn a new domestic violence bill protecting only women into a gender neutral bill protecting both men and women. Despite all his appeals, the bill called Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence Bill 2016-17, was passed unchanged with 138 to one votes.

Philip Davies was the only MP who had objected to the bill’s sexist title. He wrote in an editorial that “it demonstrates how petrified MPs are at standing up to the increasingly extreme feminist agenda, which no longer seems to argue for equality and thinks it is perfectly acceptable to discriminate against men.” The bill is based on the Istanbul Convention which itself is sexist towards men. Davies and another Tory MP David Nuttal had proposed 47 amendments to the bill to make it gender neutral. The anti-domestic violence bill was introduced by MP Anna Turley, who had advocated punching right-wing US journalist Milo Yiannopoulos in November 2016.

The incident was misreported by several news outlets and many accused Davies of trying to block a benign bill protecting women from domestic violence. Peter Walker writing for The Guardian described the incident as Davies trying to filibuster the bill. Yas Necati writing for The Independent said, “Philip Davies doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to women’s rights“. He also quoted statistics that one in four women experience in UK domestic violence, but didn’t provide any explanation on why he feels that men should be excluded from the protection of the bill.

Why very few people want to be called feminist anyone

Is Tanmay Bhat right about feminism? Did Lisa Haydon really misinterpret feminism? Or has Feminism gone from a movement for women’s equality to a misandrist and self-serving cult?

In March 2015, Shyama Krishna Kumar in an a column for the The New Indian Express argued, “Every day, women on the Internet and in the real world are called out for being feminists — labelled as bra-burning, man-hating liberals; when the opposite is true. Feminism is not an attack on men, but an embracing of the fact that all humans are equal, whether they are men, women, transgender or otherwise.” She was advocating the introduction of feminist teaching in Indian schools.

Recently in an interview with the The Times of India published on 22 May 2016, actress Lisa Haydon rejected the label of feminism. She said, “I don’t like the word feminist. I don’t think women trying to be men is feminism. I also don’t believe in being outspoken for the sake of it, or just to prove a point. Feminism is just an overused term and people make too much noise about it for no reason. Women have been given these bodies to produce children, and the spirit and tenderness to take care of people around us. It’s fine to be an outspoken and working woman. I don’t want to be a man. One day I look forward to making dinner for my husband and children. I don’t want to be a career feminist.

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Her personal choice to not be a feminist was highly criticised on the social media. Even several left-leaning newspaper and blogs condemned her statements. Writing for the DNA India, Nirmalaya Dutta proclaimed that, “Dear Lisa Haydon, if you believe in gender equality then you are a feminist“. On Miss Malini, a celebrity gossip blog, Priyam Saha wrote, “Lisa Haydon’s take on feminism is everything that’s wrong with the world“. Urmi Bhattacheryya writing for The Quint said, “Sorry Lisa Haydon, but you know nothing about feminism.

Around the same time, Tanmay Bhat, a Youtube comedian turned TV star, made a rant about feminism on SnapChat. In it he ptoclaimed, “If you believe men and women should have equal rights, that makes you a feminist. That’s it. There’s nothing else.” For his opinion, he got lots of pats on the head.  On the Firstpost, Swetha Ramakrishnan wrote, “Lisa Haydon should take tips from Tanmay Bhat on how not to misinterpret feminism“.

I could find only a few bloggers siding with Lisa Haydon. On The Frustrated India, there is Kalpojyoti Kashyap with his article “Why Lisa Haydon makes more sense than all feminists combined?” A journalist for The Times of India, Piyali Prakash wrote in a column, “Why Tanmay Bhat got feminism wrong“. She argued that she uses various perks offered to women like metro coaches reserved specially for women, thus she is “conveniently sexist”.
So, she asked Tanmay Bhat not to brand her as a feminist without her consent. The article brought outraged women to the comments calling her idiot and stupid.

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 stupid piyali

Despite for all their arguments, increasingly a lot of people worldwide are avoiding the label of feminism. In 2014, the hashtag #WomenAgainstFeminist went viral in US. It was started by women who said that they believe in true egalitarianism, and also supported men’s issues. Some of them believed that feminism censors dissenting views. More recently in January 2016, it was reported that according to a survey in UK, only 7% of the people surveyed called themselves feminists, but 86% of the men and 74% of the women supported gender equality. The survey was done by The Fawcett Society, a feminist charity, which choose to published report under the title of “We are a nation of ‘hidden feminists’“, thus forcing the label of feminism on the very people who do not want it.

Frequently, when faced with criticism of modern feminism, many feminists pull the dictionary argument. In the case of Lisa Haydon, Quartz India wrote, “Perhaps it would help if these celebrities look up the meaning of the word “feminism” before denouncing it.” I am bemused that a movement with millions of proponents and a three hundred year history is reduced to a narrow definition of a single sentence.

Over the years, the feminist movement which can be traced to the Suffragette have taken many forms. However in recent years, it has been taking a extreme form. The symptoms of this mutation can be seen among feminists who advocate putting all men in concentration camps and focus on fatuous and first-world issues like gender roles of video game characters and manspreading instead of real issues which still affects several women worldwide. No wonder more and more people now avoid the label of feminist.

Jian Ghomeshi’s acquittal and the Twitter outrage

Recently, a Canadian radio personality Jian Ghomeshi was acquitted of sexual assault charges. Following the news, women (and some men) on Twitter accused the Canadian legal system of being anti-women and some even abused Ghomeshi’s lawyer, Marie Henein. In this post, I will explore the incidents in detail.

In October 2014, Jian Ghomeshi was fired from his job at CBC, where he used to host a show called Q. He had been with CBC for 12 years. The reason for his firing was that Toronto Star had been working on a story based on the allegations from three of his ex-girlfriends, that he had been violent with them without their consent. Some of the allegations dated back to 2002. After Ghomeshi was fired, the story was published. Ghomeshi maintained that although he liked rough sex, he had always done it after getting consent. He claimed that these were lies being spread by his jilted ex-girlfriends. By late October 2014, Toronto Star was claiming that at least 8 women had contacted it saying that they had been sexually abused by Ghomeshi. By 6 November 2014, magazines were digging up stories from his college days in the 1990s and claiming that “there had been foreshadowing for years in the circles in which Ghomeshi moved”. Of the 8 cases (15 according to some), three women came forward and filed complaints with the police.

The trial began in February 2016. Ghomesh was represented by noted defence lawyer, Marie Henein. The first woman said she met Ghomeshi at a Christmas party in 2002. She and Ghomeshi were kissing on a couch in his house, when suddenly he pulled her hair, pulled her to her knees, and then punched her on the head repeatedly. Ghomeshi’s layer, Henein, pointed out that the woman had sent a flirty email to Ghomeshi with a bikini picture, after the sexual assault had allegedly taken place. The email correspondence went up to a year after the supposed crime. The woman had previously testified that she had no contact with Ghomeshi after the sexual assault.

The second woman was a TV star, Lucy-Anne DeCoutere. She was the only woman who allowed her identify revealed to the press. She claimed that in July 2003, when she went to Ghomeshi’s house, he slapped her without warning and choked her until she couldn’t breathe. Marie Henein told the court of the flirty emails sent mere hours after the incident to Ghomesh. Henein also pointed out that DeCoutere had maintained contact with Ghomeshi for years after the incident, which included hand-written notes. DeCoutre said that the relationship was platonic and she did not like having negative feelings towards anyone. In 2005, she sent a picture of her fellating a beer bottle to Ghomeshi.

The third woman claimed that Ghomeshi had put his teeth on her and squeezed her neck which they were kissing on a park in 2003. In this case also, Heinen pointed that she had exchanged text messages with Ghomeshi following the incident. Marie Heinen’s smart dissection of the accussers’ statement inevitably brought the focus on her. Everything from her family background, former clients, her style of dressing and her law firm was discussed in the media. A female writer wrote an entire article about her high heels. Meanwhile, the prosecutor’s case, which was obviously full of holes, was falling apart.

On 24 March 2016, the judge declared Ghomeshi to be not guilty. The judge said that prosecutor had completely relied on the witnesses’ testimonies and had no other evidence, “There is no other evidence to look to determine the truth. There is no tangible evidence. There is no DNA. There is no ‘smoking gun’.” The judge also pointed to the inconsistencies in the testimonies. I seemed to me that even if the incidents had happened, women did not consider them a crime or serious enough to be reported at that time. But later, they changed their minds.

After the verdict, Ghomeshi’s sister Jila gave a statement, “We are relieved but not surprised by the court decision today. It can only be surprising to those who rushed to judgement before the trial had started and before a single word of evidence had been heard.”
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A group of activists arrived chanting “We believe survivors”. A topless activist with “Women declare Ghomeshi guilty” written on her body was arrested by the police.

Another case from a single complaint will go to trial in June 2016. Ghomeshi may or may not be held guilty in that one.

As soon as the news of the verdict was released, many Canadian women (and some men) on the Twitter were outraged. They proclaimed that despite the non-existence evidence, based on the shady testimonies alone, Ghomeshi should have been held guilty. Soon #Ghomeshi and #IBelieveSurvivors were trending on Twitter in Canada. In this post, I will examine some of the tweets that caught my attention.

Tweets claiming that the verdict will discourage victims from coming forward.

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A lot of women were concerned less about the actual verdict and more concerned about the impact of the verdict. They were not interested in establishing the facts at all. If they had the means, they would have held Ghomeshi guilty, merely so as not to discourage future victims from coming forward. They perhaps believe that any man accused of sexual assault should held guilty, only so that future victims do not feel discouraged.

Tweets claiming that the Canadian justice system is broken.

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There were also a lot of tweets claiming that Ghomeshi was acquitted because the legal system of Canada is broken. I had trouble understanding what they meant by that. I also read some of the links shared by them, but they all talked about suggested reforms like free legal counsel for women and separate courts. Some of them argued that testifying in front of their attacker is traumatising for the victims. But none of them exactly explained how in this particular case, the “broken” justice system supposedly let Ghomeshi walk. Unless, the argument is that the accusers forgot that they emailed Ghomeshi for months, by the trauma of facing him in the court.

Tweets attacking the judge.
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There were also a lot tweets criticising the judge. Someone were offended by the words he used in the verdict, others argued that he should have upheld the flawed testimonies of the accusers. In an opinion piece in the Times Colonist, two women law professors wrote that they accepted the verdict due to the lack of evidence, but were offended by the words used. The verdict said, “is impossible for the court to have sufficient faith in the reliability or sincerity of these complainants.” The writers argued that judge should not have called them dishonest.

Tweets attacking Ghomeshi’s lawyer.
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There were a lot of vitriol filled comments towards Marie Henein. Some pointed out that she had previously defended Michael Byrant in a drunk driving and accidental death case. A lot of tweets however accused Marie Heinen of being a party to injustice and a betrayer of womankind. A blog claimed that it had found that the judge’s son was working with Heinen’s brother in some firm. Thus, there was a conflict of interest and the judge should have excused himself from sitting over the case.

Later in an interview, Heinen defended herself. She said that she found the tweets accusing her of betraying women to be distressing. She also said, “Hashtag I believe is not a legal principle, nor should it ever be.” In a speech at the Young Women in Law gala in Toronto, she said, “Throughout your career in this profession, you will be told what you should do, how you should act, which way you should bend. Do not listen to any of it. Do not be dissuaded by my experience. Do not for a moment be disheartened. I am not.”

Not all tweets.

However, not all tweets were disheartening in this manner.
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Some people were disappointed with the verdict but they still understood the importance of evidence.
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Not all tweets were hateful of Marie Henein either.

The bottomline is that when a man is accused of sexual assault, everyone will presume him to be guilty. The concept presumption of innocence simply disappears. Anyone remotely associated with him or defending him will be vilified. Canadian men (and men around the world) should try their best to avoid getting entangled in such cases.

I will also write about the next trial of Jian Ghomeshi. In the upcoming weeks, I will write about how the media and society views men accused of sex crimes. Until then, let’s be thankful that the judiciary system is not a democracy run by Twitter Feminists.