Muslim Women in India Again Listed on ‘For Sale as Maids’ on Auction App

Muslim Women in India Again Listed on ‘For Sale as Maids’ on Auction App
‘Bulli Bai’ seems to be the new ‘Sulli Deals’. Credit: TheQuint

04-01-2022

Laetitia Wilms van Kersbergen

India and Human Rights Researcher

Global Human Rights Defence

Delhi police has launched an investigation into an app called Bulli Bai, which was created with the open source software GitHub and is very reminiscent of Sulli Deals, which caused significant outrage 6 months ago.[1] Hundreds of Muslim women’s pictures were uploaded to Bulli Bai and subsequently offered for ‘auction’ as maids.[2] According to Quratulain Rehbar, a journalist from Kashmir, who found herself for ‘sale’ on the Bulli Bai app, says that while no real sale took place, the app had the clear intention “to degrade and humiliate vocal Muslim women”.[3] Rehbar had previously also been on ‘Sulli Deals’ last year. Both ‘Sulli’ and ‘Bulli’ are derogatory terms used for Muslim women.[4] Ismat Ara, a journalist from New Delhi, was also among the women who found their photos on the app. Ara filed a complaint with the Delhi police for harassment of the Muslim women on the app.[5]

While it took the Delhi police some time to start an official investigation into the app, the police have now registered a First Information Report (FIR) under section 508, which refers to a “word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman”.[6] The Mumbai police and the Criminal Investigation Department later followed by also filing an FIR. The website, on which the app was made, has been taken down, but, according to MP Priyanka Chaturvedi, this is insufficient. Similar to ‘Sulli Deals’ last July, only the website was blocked, but no further action was taken. Chaturvedi strongly argues that those who are responsible for the app must be held accountable.[7]

Last July, two FIRs were filed by the Delhi and Uttar Pradesh police in relation to the ‘Sulli Deals’ app, but no action was taken afterwards, and GitHub did not seem to respond to any requests from the Delhi police either.[8] 

Ara is not positive about a just outcome, stating that it is unlikely that there will be any effective outcome of the police investigation as, after 6 months since the ‘Sulli Deals’ app, no arrests have been made in relation to that case.[9]

Notes:

[1] TRTWorld, ‘Muslim women in India again listed for ‘auction’ on app’ TRT World (3 January 2022) <https://www.trtworld.com/asia/muslim-women-in-india-again-listed-for-auction-on-app-53234> last accessed 4 January 2022.

[2] Arvind Ojha, ‘Another ‘Sulli Deals’? Muslim women listed on app for ‘auction’, user ‘Bulli Bai’ block’ India Today (2 January 2022) <https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/sulli-deals-bulli-bai-muslim-women-auction-police-action-1894943-2022-01-02> last accessed 4 January 2022.

[3] Srishti Jaswal, ‘Bulli Bai: India’s Muslim women again listed on app for ‘auction’’ Al Jazeera (2 January 2022) <https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/1/2/bulli-bai-muslim-women-auction-online-india> last accessed 4 January 2022.

[4] IANS, ‘Bulli Bai case: ‘Noted’ says NCW chief to woman journalist’s complaint’ Deccan Herald (2 January 2022) <https://www.deccanherald.com/national/north-and-central/bulli-bai-case-noted-says-ncw-chief-to-woman-journalists-complaint-1067185.html> last accessed 4 January 2022.

[5] Srishti Jaswal, ‘Bulli Bai: India’s Muslim women again listed on app for ‘auction’’ Al Jazeera (2 January 2022) <https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/1/2/bulli-bai-muslim-women-auction-online-india> last accessed 4 January 2022.

[6] Indian Penal Code, section 508.

[7] ET Bureau, ‘Bulli Bai app row: Mumbai, Delhi police register FIRs’ The Economic Times (3 January 2022) <https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/india/bulli-bai-app-row-mumbai-delhi-police-register-firs/articleshow/88656298.cms> last accessed 4 January 2022.

[8] Arvind Ojha, ‘Another ‘Sulli Deals’? Muslim women listed on app for ‘auction’, user ‘Bulli Bai’ block’ India Today (2 January 2022) <https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/sulli-deals-bulli-bai-muslim-women-auction-police-action-1894943-2022-01-02> last accessed 4 January 2022.

[9] Srishti Jaswal, ‘Bulli Bai: India’s Muslim women again listed on app for ‘auction’’ Al Jazeera (2 January 2022) <https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/1/2/bulli-bai-muslim-women-auction-online-india> last accessed 4 January 2022.

Sources and further reading:

[1] Ram Kinkar Singh, ‘DCW notice to Delhi Police after photos of Muslim women misused on app’ India Today (7 July 2021) <https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/dcw-notice-to-delhi-police-after-photos-of-muslim-women-misused-on-app-1825102-2021-07-07> last accessed 4 January 2022.

[2] Tanseem Haider, ‘Delhi Police files FIR against creators of ‘Sulli Deals’ app, issues notice to GitHub’ India Today (8 July 2021) <https://www.indiatoday.in/cities/story/delhi-police-files-fir-against-creators-of-sulli-deals-app-issues-notice-to-github-1825572-2021-07-08> last accessed 4 January 2022.

[3] Scroll Staff, “Online auction’ of women: Delhi women’s panel summons police, seeks details of action taken’ Scroll.in (3 January 2022) <https://scroll.in/latest/1014202/online-auction-of-women-result-of-dehumanisation-of-minorities-by-bjp-says-congress> last accessed 4 January 2022.