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What is GitHub, at the centre of online sexual harassment probe?

  • IAS NEXT, Lucknow
  • 07, Jan 2022
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GitHub is the world’s largest open-source developer community platform where users upload their projects and code for others to view, edit, and tweak.

            It is in the news after it was used to create and share an offensively named app (Bulli Bai) that sexually harassed Muslim women in India.

The app used pictures of the women stolen from their social media handles and invited “users” to bid for them.

How is the case being investigated?

GitHub has blocked the user, and the Indian Computer Emergency Response System (Cert-In), the nodal agency for monitoring cyber security incidents, has been asked to form “a high-level committee” to investigate.

Delhi and Mumbai Police have registered FIRs on complaints by some of the women who were targeted.

Is this the first time such an incident has happened?

No. In June 2021, another app with a similar-sounding name, which too was hosted on GitHub, had been used to harass Muslim women in the same way.

Police in Delhi and Noida had registered FIRs, but the probe has not progressed. Delhi Police have said GitHub is not cooperating.

What’s the issue/concern?

Recently, the National Commission for Women (NCW) has informed that there was a rise of 46% in complaints of crimes against women in the first eight months of 2021 over the corresponding period of last year.

Constitutional Safeguards:

Fundamental Rights:

It guarantees all Indians the right to equality (Article 14), no discrimination by the State on the basis of gender (Article 15(1)) and special provisions to be made by the State in favour of women (Article 15(3)).

Fundamental Duties:

It ensures that practices derogatory to the dignity of women are prohibited under Article 51 (A).

Legislative Framework:

Indian Penal Code (IPC) criminalises speech that is obscene, defamatory, that insults the modesty of women and intrudes upon her privacy.

Information Technology Act of 2000 punishes speech that is obscene.

The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act prohibits the publication of any printed material containing indecent representation of women.

Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act prevent sexual harassment of a child as well as the use of children for pornographic purposes.


The Ministry of Women & Child Development has launched Sexual Harassment electronic Box (SHe-Box) as an effort to provide a single window access to every woman, irrespective of her work status, whether working in organised or unorganised, private or public sector, to facilitate the registration of complaint related to sexual harassment.

            Any woman facing sexual harassment at the workplace can register their complaint through this portal. Once a complaint is submitted to the ‘SHe-Box’, it will be directly sent to the concerned authority having jurisdiction to take action into the matter.

Measures needed:

  • National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal should be designated as the national portal under-reporting requirements in the POCSO Act in case of electronic material.
  • Union Government should be empowered through its designated authority to block and/or prohibit all websites/intermediaries that carry child sexual abuse material.
  • Tools can be developed which can analyse the behaviour of every internet user. So it can help prevent the user from falling into cyber bullying.
  • Law enforcement agencies should be permitted to brake end to end encryption to trace distributors of child pornography.
  • A cyber crime portal was launched in 2018 to enable citizens to report obscene contents. Cyber police stations and cyber crime cells were also set up in each state for reporting and investigating cybercrime cases.