The website was taken down after many women and other social media users reported and flagged the site, although screenshots of the women’s pictures were being circulated.

A woman holding her phone with her head in her hand, looking distressed
news Cybercrime Monday, July 05, 2021 - 17:56

“For a moment, I couldn’t really fathom what had happened. It was almost like this paralysis that went through my body. Just seeing your name and your face online… That was horrifying and deeply hurtful,” Najma (name changed) told TNM. On July 4, many Muslim women like Najma discovered their pictures were up on a website called ‘Sulli Deals’. ‘Sulli’ is a derogatory word used to refer to Muslim women. The website targeted Muslim women, intending to “auction” them.

The open-source website, on the web-based platform Github, reportedly selected images of women along with their name and Twitter handle — without their consent — and gave the user the option of sharing the image with the title: “Your sulli deal of the day is…” The website was taken down after many women and other social media users reported and flagged the site. 

However, before the website was taken down, many social media users had already posted screenshots of the website and shared them, with some using it to alert the women concerned. As many women reported the crime, several offered support while many men offered unsolicited advice, asking women and feminists to stop posting pictures online as “things will never change.”

The incident comes days before Eid-al Adha, expected to take place on July 21. In May 2021, at the time of E-d-al-fitr, a similar controversy arose when Indian social media accounts ‘auctioned’ women online based on their Eid pictures and passed lewd comments against them. A YouTube channel ‘Liberal Doge’ streamed the pictures and passed extremely misogynistic comments on the same. The victims included women from India and Pakistan. The YouTube description of the video read, in Hindi, “Today, we will stalk women with our eyes filled with lust.” Several people took to social media to call out the incident, and some women also filed complaints against the YouTube channel with the police. Following this, some of the profiles, which posted the women’s pictures, took down the posts or locked their accounts.

“I don’t think people who indulge in this need a reason for objectifying and harassing these women,” said Najma.

It is not clear if these women intend to pursue a police complaint. However, women who have been affected by such cases of online harassment can pursue legal recourse. Although it could be a legally tricky scenario, some of the legal provisions for online harassment include section 66E (punishment for violation of privacy) and section 67 (punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form)and in the Information Technology Act, 2000, as well as other provisions under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). 

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