Bulli Bai

The app, now taken down, displayed more than 100 women ‘for sale as maids’, with victims saying they have little hope of action by police.

Bulli Bai

 On January 1, Quratulain Rehbar, a journalist from Indian-administered Kashmir, woke up to see herself listed for an “online auction”. Her photograph was sourced without her permission and uploaded on an app for “sale”.

She was not alone.
Photographs of more than 100 Muslim women, including prominent actress Shabana Azmi, wife of a sitting judge of Delhi High Court, multiple journalists, activists, and politicians were displayed on the app for auction as “Bulli Bai” of the day. Even Fatima Nafees, 65-year-old mother of disappeared student Najeeb Ahmed and Pakistani Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai was not spared by the perpetrators behind the app.
After last July’s “Sulli Deals“, in which nearly 80 Muslim women were put up “for sale”, “Bulli Bai” was the second such attempt in less than a year. “Both ‘Bulli’ and ‘Sulli’ are derogatory words used for Muslim women in local slang. However, this time the Punjabi language was used in the ‘Bulli Bai’ interface along with English,” journalist Mohammad Zubair, who works for fact-checking website AltNews, investigated

Rehbar, who had previously reported on the “Sulli Deals” auction in July last year, was shocked to see her photograph on the app. “When I saw my photograph, my throat got heavy, I had goosebumps on my arms and I was numb. It was shocking and humiliating,” she said.

While there was no real sale involved, the online application – created on Microsoft-owned open software development site GitHub – was, according to Rehbar, intended “to degrade and humiliate vocal Muslim women”. The app was taken down on Saturday, with victims saying the interface of the GitHub extension on “Bulli Bai” was strikingly similar to the one used by “Sulli Deals”.

By Saturday evening, dozens of other Muslim women began posting their shock and outrage on social media after seeing their photographs and details on the app.

Ara filed a complaint on Saturday with the Delhi Police against “unknown people” for harassing and insulting Muslim women on social media “using doctored pictures in unacceptable and lewd context”. Based on her complaint, a first information report (FIR) was registered by Delhi Police’s Cyber Crime Unit on Sunday, invoking various sections of the Indian Penal Code that pertain to promoting enmity on grounds of religion, threatening national integration and sexual harassment of women.

After her tweet calling out India’s IT minister to take “stern action” against “misogynistic and communal targeting of women”, the minister said GitHub had blocked the user responsible for hosting the site and the “police authorities are coordinating further action”.

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