Last Sunday, dozens of Muslim women in India discovered that they had been put up for sale on-line.
Hana Khan, a business pilot whose title was on the record, informed the BBC she was alerted to it when a buddy despatched her a tweet.
The tweet took her to “Sulli Deals”, an app and web site that had taken publicly accessible footage of women and created profiles, describing the women as “deals of the day”.
The app’s touchdown web page had a photograph of an unknown lady. On the following two pages Ms Khan noticed pictures of her associates. On the web page after that she noticed herself.
“I counted 83 names. There could be more,” she informed the BBC. “They’d taken my photo from Twitter and it had my user name. This app was running for 20 days and we didn’t even know about it. It sent chills down my spine.”
The app pretended to supply customers the prospect to purchase a “Sulli” – a derogatory slang time period utilized by proper-wing Hindu trolls for Muslim women. There was no actual public sale of any type – the aim of the app was simply to degrade and humiliate.
Ms Khan mentioned she had been focused was due to her faith. “I’m a Muslim woman who’s seen and heard,” she mentioned. “And they want to silence us.”
GitHub – the net platform that hosted the open supply app – shut it down shortly following complaints. “We suspended user accounts following the investigation of reports of such activity, all of which violate our policies,” the company said in a statement.
But the expertise has left women scarred. Those who featured on the app have been all vocal Muslims, together with journalists, activists, artists or researchers. A couple of have since deleted their social media accounts and plenty of others mentioned they have been afraid of additional harassment.
“No matter how strong you are, but if your picture and other personal information is made public, it scares you, it disturbs you,” one other lady informed the BBC Hindi service.
But a number of of the women whose particulars have been shared on the app have taken to social media to name out the “perverts”, and vowed to combat. A dozen have fashioned a WhatsApp group to hunt – and provide – help and a few of them, together with Ms Khan, have lodged complaints with the police.
Prominent residents, activists and leaders have additionally spoken out in opposition to the harassment. The police mentioned that they had opened an investigation however refused to say who could possibly be behind the app.
The individuals who made the app used faux identities, however Hasiba Amin, a social media coordinator for the opposition Congress get together, blamed a number of accounts which commonly assault Muslims, particularly Muslim women, and declare to help proper-wing politics.
This is just not the primary time, Ms Amin mentioned, that Muslim women have been focused on this method. On 13 May, as Muslims celebrated the pageant of Eid, a YouTube channel ran an “Eid Special” – a stay “auction” of Muslim women from India and Pakistan.
“People were bidding five rupees (67 cents; 48 pence) and 10 rupees, they were rating women based on their body parts and describing sexual acts and threatening rape,” Ms Khan mentioned.
Ms Amin informed me that later that day, an nameless account tried to “auction” her on Twitter. Several others – one referred to as @sullideals101, which has since been suspended – joined in, “abusing me, body shaming me and describing gross sexual acts”, Ms Khan mentioned.
She believes that those that tried to public sale her on Twitter are the identical people who find themselves behind the Sulli Deals app and the YouTube channel – which has since been taken down by the platform.
In the previous week, Twitter has suspended accounts that claimed they have been behind the app and it could be again up quickly.
Campaigners say women from non secular minorities and deprived castes face extra on-line harassment
Campaigners say on-line abuse has the facility to “belittle, demean, intimidate and eventually silence women”.
Last week, greater than 200 distinguished actors, musicians, journalists and authorities officers from around the globe wrote an open letter, urging CEOs of Facebook, Google, TikTok and Twitter to make women’s security “a priority”.
“The internet is the town square of the 21st century,” they wrote. “It is where debate takes place, communities are built, products are sold and reputations are made. But the scale of online abuse means that, for too many women, these digital town squares are unsafe.”
An Amnesty International report on online harassment in India final yr confirmed the extra vocal a lady was, the extra she was focused. And simply as black women have been extra prone to be picked on in Britain and the United States, women from non secular minorities and deprived castes have been harassed extra in India.
Nazia Erum, creator and former spokesperson of Amnesty in India, mentioned there have been few Muslim women on social media and people who have been have been “hunted and haunted”.
“This targeted and planned attack is an attempt to take away the mic from the educated Muslim women who express their opinion and speak out against Islamophobia. It’s an attempt to silence them, to shame them, to take away the space they occupy,” she mentioned.
Ms Amin mentioned the harassers had “no fear because they know they will get away with it”.
She pointed to a number of current circumstances of atrocities in opposition to Muslims inspired by supporters of the ruling BJP get together, equivalent to a authorities minister who garlanded eight Hindus convicted for lynching a Muslim, and the nation’s new broadcasting minister who was seen final yr in a viral video working up a Hindu crowd to “shoot Muslims”.
For the women whose identities have been taken and utilized by the “Sulli Deals” app, the combat for justice could possibly be lengthy and difficult. But they’re decided to have it.
“If police don’t find those who put us up for sale, I will go to the courts,” Ms Khan mentioned. “I’m going to pursue it till the end.”