Indian police investigate after rape chat group sparks online backlash

by Roli Srivastava | @Rolionaroll | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 5 May 2020 10:32 GMT

Demonstrators shout slogans as they take part in a protest against the alleged rape and murder of a 27-year-old woman on the outskirts of Hyderabad, in New Delhi, India, December 3, 2019. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

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Chat group called 'bois locker room' was the top trending hashtag on Twitter India as outrage grew

By Roli Srivastava

MUMBAI, May 5 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Delhi police were on Tuesday investigating an online chat group that made light of gang-rape and caused a backlash on social media over trivialising sexual assault, with one teenage boy questioned.

An Instagram chat group called "bois locker room" was the top trending hashtag on Twitter India, with many tweets using screenshots from the group to highlight derogatory comments made about women, sexism or victim blaming.

Sexual violence against women has become a major issue in India since the 2012 gang-rape and murder of a woman on a bus in New Delhi that prompted tough new laws, but implementation has been poor and the attacks shown no signs of let-up.

"Based on the information online and our technical investigation, we identified a boy and apprehended him," Anyesh Roy, deputy commissioner of police in the Delhi Police's cyber crime unit told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"We took relevant details from him and he was handed over to his parents," he added. "We have seized his mobile phone."

He said investigations into other people in the group chat were ongoing relating to breaches of various laws including transmitting obscene material and insulting the modesty of women.

On Monday, the state-run Delhi Commission for Women issued a notice to the police requesting action be taken against the members of the chat group, and sent another notice to Instagram seeking details of the group's members.

A representative for Facebook, which owns Instagram, said it did "not allow behaviour that promotes sexual violence or exploits anyone, especially women and young people".

Action is taken against any content that violates the platform's community standards, the representative added.

In India one woman reported a rape every 15 minutes on average in 2018, according to government data, underlining the country's dismal reputation as one of the worst places in the world to be female.

India in March hanged four men convicted of the 2012 bus gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old student, a case that put the international spotlight on sexual violence against women in the country.

A Thomson Reuters Foundation poll of gender experts in 2018 rated India as the world's most dangerous country for women.

Twitter backlash said the attitude to women had to change.

"For this locker room story that got out, there must be thousands more around ... dangerous masculinity and sexism will still exist," wrote Twitter user @justyashgoyal.

"Objectification of women must stop and it can only be done by educating youth," wrote another Twitter user @tripathiharsh02.

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(Reporting by Roli Srivastava @Rolionaroll; Editing by Michael Taylor and Belinda Goldsmith. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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