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2 Jan, 2022 12:53

Women ‘auctioned’ online in India through ‘lewd’ photos – reports

The names and edited photos of hundreds of Muslim women in India were featured on a now-defunct site as part of an alleged ‘auction’
Women ‘auctioned’ online in India through ‘lewd’ photos – reports

Photographs of hundreds of Indian Muslim women were shared on an app that reportedly auctioned the women online. The images, which were sourced from their social media accounts and apparently doctored, have sparked an uproar.

The issue came to light after anonymous Twitter users shared details about the app, called ‘Bulli Bai’, with links to its page on software development platform GitHub. On Saturday, several women tweeted about their names and likenesses being shared on the app.

The Delhi Police registered a sexual harassment complaint against the unknown perpetrators after a journalist reported that she had been targeted by the app, which has since been taken down by GitHub. India’s information technology minister, Ashwini Vaishnaw, tweeted that the Computer Emergency Response Team – a cybersecurity agency under the IT Ministry – is also investigating the matter.

Noting that the new year had started with a “sense of fear & disgust,” the journalist, Ismat Ara, shared a screenshot of the app that listed her as the “Bulli Bai of the day” on Twitter. In her complaint, Ara noted that the portal “had a doctored picture of me in an improper, unacceptable and clearly lewd context.” She also said the term ‘Bulli’ is a derogatory reference to Muslim women.

Several other prominent Muslim women also tweeted about being ‘auctioned off’ on the site, with popular radio personality Sayema noting that the incident was a “reflection on India’s broken justice system, a dilapidated law and order arrangement” and wondering whether it was “becoming the most unsafe country for women.”

Social media users pointed to the similarities between Bulli Bai and a defunct website called ‘Sulli Deals’, which had also put up photographs of Indian Muslim women and listed them ‘for sale’ last year. That app, also hosted on GitHub, had triggered similar outrage and promises of action.

A number of opposition politicians have weighed in on the issue, criticizing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and police forces for allowing “such rampant misogyny and communal targeting of women” to go unchecked. 

“The humiliation and communal hatred towards women will stop only when we all stand against it in one voice. The year has changed – now we have to speak up!” Indian National Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said.