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‘Anti-Romeo’ vigilantes are targeting men for being gay in India

‘Anti-Romeo’ vigilantes are targeting men for being gay in India

A man is questioned by an anti-Romeo squad in Agra, Uttar Pradesh. Photo: Twitter

For the first time ever the Lucknow, the capital city of Indian state, Uttar Pradesh (UP) will host its first Pride Walk.

LGBTI organisations Awadh Pride Team and Humsafar Trust are organising the Pride Walk.

UP is the home of the Taj Mahal in the country’s mid-north.

The Pride Walk on April 9 comes at a critical time for Uttar Pradesh’s LGBTI community. Vigilante groups known as ‘anti-Romeo squads’ have been targeting men

The men are either assaulted or taken to the police where they have to pay a bribe to get out of an arrest.

Last week an uncle and nephew were picked up by a squad on the suspicion they were a gay couple according to the Indian Times.

They each had to pay a 5000 rupee bribe (USD77) to secure their release.

The formation of the anti-Romeo squads was an election promise from the now ruling Hindu nationalist party the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) in UP.

Yogi Adityanath’s government had said the squad’s purpose was to protect young women in public from ‘eve-teasers’ (men who sexually harass women in the street).

But the squads have turned into vigilante groups – made up of the general public and police officers. They are now targeting suspected LGBTI people and young couples in public.

Pride Walk could not come sooner

Organisers of the Lucknow Pride Walk said it would be a good opportunity to educate the public about LGBTI issues.

‘Beginning next week, we will reach out to schools to spread awareness about the community,’ Humsafar Trust’s Tinesh Chopade told the Times of India.

‘Our basic motive is to get the Supreme Court’s 2014 order implemented. The order calls for 13% reservation to the community among other rights.’

The Awadh Pride Team also hosted the Awadh Queer Film Festival featured movies about India’s LGBTI community.

‘The conservative society has a very narrow view about our community, which makes life difficult for people like us,’ said film festival organizer Yadavendra.

Social activist Sadaf Jafar said: ‘The solution lies in education and from there on we can get together as a civil society to demand basic education for children from the community.’