Indian online auction puts 100 women up for sale via GitHub app

KEY POINTS

  • The app encouraged users to bid on Muslim women
  • The app featured many influential Muslim women in India
  • Indian police have so far arrested four people behind the app

At least 100 Muslim women in India have been listed as ‘for sale’ in a fake online auction, sparking massive outrage among the minority community.

A Github app called Bulli Bai – a derogatory Hindi phrase for Muslim women – encouraged users to bid on 100 Muslim women whose images were posted without consent. The app featured many influential Muslim women in India, including lawyers, activists and politicians. Among them was Quratulain Rehbar, a 27-year-old journalist.

“It took me at least two to three hours to process,” she said. BNC News in a January 5 phone call, adding that she was first told about the auction while on a public bus.

Many Muslim women targeted in the attack are said to have criticized the policies pursued by the ruling Bharatiya Janata party led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“[The intent] was to sexually harass, dishonor, humiliate and hate women for speaking out against the government,” Rehbar added.

Rehbar has since deleted her Instagram account and deleted her email from Twitter after receiving several spam messages from men.

Indian police have so far arrested four people aged between 18 and 21 who were behind the app, including engineering student Neeraj Bishnoi. It is believed that he created the application.

Bulli Bai is not the first online app created to harass Muslim women in India. In July 2021, an app called “Sulli Deals” also took publicly available photos of 100 women, created profiles, and tagged them as “deals of the day.”

GitHub, the web platform used to build and host the app, shut down Sulli Deals after receiving complaints, adding that the app violated its policies, according to a declaration.

Online harassment is a growing problem in India. A study 2020 by Amnesty International India found that Muslim women and female politicians outside the ruling Bharatiya Janata party were more likely to be targeted and abused.

The study, which looked at 114,716 tweets mentioning Indian female politicians between March and May 2019, also found that 10.5% of all tweets were problematic and 3.3% were abusive.

Among the problematic or abusive tweets, many contained sexism, misogyny, religious slurs, racism, casteism, transphobia, sexual threats and physical threats.

Afghans residing in India demonstrate for women’s rights in New Delhi on October 30, 2021 Photo: AFP / Sajjad HUSSAIN

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