Muslim women ‘auction’

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Hundreds of prominent Indian Muslim women were “listed for auction” in a mobile phone app just a few months after another app was found to be doing the same. Delhi police are investigating after a local journalist, also listed on the app, filed a complaint. In both cases, the women’s photographs, sometimes doctored, had also been uploaded with their ‘auction’ profiles. Most of the victims were Muslim women with a strong presence on Twitter, including journalists. In both cases, it appears that far-right individuals or groups were behind the apps, which were quickly blocked by Indian and foreign authorities after complaints on social media. The apps contained offensive references to Muslims and women.

While the offensive language in both apps is usually associated with Hindutva-pushing social media trolls, Twitter handles reportedly associated with the new app and some individual handles appeared to be promoting Sikh communal causes. However, prominent Sikh journalists and politicians have suggested that this is a false-flag attempt by “fascist forces” to “put a wedge between Sikhs and Muslims”. Incidentally, both apps were initially hosted on the internet hosting site Github.

Unfortunately, while Indian authorities did take quick action to take down both apps, the investigation into the first has yielded no action against any suspects. In the recent case, although Information and Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw promised action, he would not elaborate on what that action would comprise.

However, there have been true allies. Several social media users have supported the victims, while Priyanka Chaturvedi, a member of the parliamentary committee on women empowerment, said she had “repeatedly asked” Vaishnaw “to take stern action against such rampant misogyny and communal targeting of women” since learning about the first app. Chaturvedi had previously noted that the harassment of women is an issue that should rise above politics. Unfortunately, India’s ruling party does not appear to care about addressing the abuse of minority women.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 4th, 2022.

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