THE ‘SULLI DEALS’ DEBACLE: MISOGYNY AND VEILED ISLAMOPHOBIA
Khushi Singh [First-year BA LLB student at Jindal Global Law School]
Women have often been subjected to cybercrimes such as online harassment as a result of their gender, sexuality, religion and whatnot. However, a recent shocking incident has come to light which makes us question our faith in the system’s ability to ensure a just, equal and secure future for the women of our country.
"Sulli Deals" was an app launched with the express aim of "auctioning" Muslim women (mostly Indian) by a group of men allegedly supporting the extremist Hindu right-wing ideology. The word “sulli” is a derogatory term used to refer to a stereotypical Muslim girl. This app was created on the platform “GitHub” and nearly 80 Muslim women, primarily artists, academics, journalists, and students active on social media, had their personal information doxxed and their images and names posted on this site without their knowledge, with insulting and objectifying titles like "Your sulli bargain of the day is…” Following a large campaign to report GitHub, the website's content was removed and the account was suspended. However, the Microsoft-owned firm has neither replied to the victims regarding the identity of the account nor has it declared any formal inquiry into the incident. An anonymous Twitter user claimed responsibility for creating the website using a used proton mail server and a purchased VPN. The account's owner stated that he intends to relaunch the page and has already begun to post the code. Nonetheless, Aman Banka, a law student from Noida, took the initiative and registered a complaint with the Special Unit for Women and Children for the case. Nabiya Khan, one of the targeted women, further informed that the women were taking all the necessary legal precautions with the aid of their attorneys.
What is alarming is that this is not the only incident of Muslim women being attacked in present circumstances. Ritesh Jha's Twitter account, "Liberal Doge", hosted a live video broadcast during Eid earlier this year, in which he disseminated, objectified, and made obscene statements, and bids on Muslim women. Furthermore, discriminatory threats were made against Muslim men and women at a Mahapanchayat in Pataudi, Haryana, while Rambhakt Gopal, the infamous Jamia shooter, allegedly urged others to kidnap young Muslim girls for 'revenge'.
It is all the more unfortunate to observe that the above-mentioned incidents didn’t gain enough traction in the local and national media and this pretty much sums up the approach adopted by the mainstream news houses in case of situations where a member of the minority community is oppressed. They prefer to overlook these issues because they do not fit their narrative of the "ideal victim", since the women involved are strong, educated, and "outspoken", thus breaking free from their faulty misconceptions surrounding Muslim women. While there’s no denying that women of all castes and religions have had to face the brunt of the oppressive patriarchy since times immemorial, it will be unfair not to acknowledge the bigotry and veiled Islamophobia as the primary motives of these ‘hate crimes’. It is only fair to note that just Muslim women were targeted by the GitHub website solely on account of their being Muslims.
Responding to this with the "all women are unsafe" stance in this context is analogous to the insensitive counter-statement for the BLM movement i.e. "All Lives Matter". All this is particularly problematic at a time when the BJP-led central government is constantly under the radar for peddling an “anti-Muslim” narrative, whether through its alleged draconian laws or through the means of hate-mongering by its fanatic supporters of ‘Hindutva’.
Hence, the need of the hour is to keep in mind the double oppression faced by the Muslim women as a result of their gender and minority identity, and to provide a safe, equal and conducive environment for them to grow as individuals regardless of their religion and gender.