Silenced in Cyber Space: How Cyber Bullying and Police Apathy Disenfranchise India’s Queer Community

Saatvika Reddy SathiLaw

How Cyber Bullying and Police Apathy Disenfranchise India's Queer Community

In April 2022, we organised our first online conference on “Abuse and Harassment in the Cyber Space: Beyond the Perceptions of Main Stream.” This conference included 12 Instagram Live sessions, and two panel discussions broadcasted live on YouTube. Since then, it has been a long time, but we have strapped on our boots again and are ready to go. Our conference saw two panels of six members, each from different spheres of life with varied experiences. These panel discussions had one common theme: panel members had the courage and bravery to accept their truth and advocate for an inclusive and non-discriminatory society. 

We will publish a series of articles in these few weeks. These articles convey the outcomes of major talking points discussed in the panel discussions. They cover the thoughts of our esteemed panellists, opinions, newspaper articles, and relevant research. Through this research, we seek to present an understanding of various issues faced by the queer community. Alongside this, we hope to suggest possible recommendations and interventions by different stakeholders to create an inclusive environment for the community. 

The Cyber Blog India welcomes any queries and recommendations from our readers and fellow stakeholders.


Patruni Chidananda Sastry gripped the fear clouding their heart as they made a courageous resolve. The 3o-year-old drag queen had bravely come out multiple times on their social media. However, their followers were not very welcoming. On a dating site, a partner demanded pictures from them. Taking their advantage, he threatened the drag queen, demanding a ransom in exchange for not publishing their pictures.

Just as we witness the freedom that the decriminalisation of Section 377 brought, incidents like Patruni’s encounter have stunted the very freedom of the queer community. Cyber space is a colossal world where stakeholders strive to create their stories on various platforms. Yet the queer community holds little to no stake in it, especially in India. Crimes against the queer community in India involve a massive amount of cyber bullying and online harassment, physical harm, and emotional abuse, more so with an enormous amount of cancel culture. Moreover, incidents of cyber bullying can manifest in real life, which causes more harm to the victim.

Apart from women and children, the queer community faces the most harassment. Social stigma against the community persists, resulting in a toxic atmosphere in cyber space. The internet provides an open platform for anyone to talk about their lives. For the queer community, this is very important as cyber space offers a safe space for their unheard voices. Discrimination already exists in offline spaces and continues to perpetuate in online spaces. Seeing justice-serving authorities paying no heed to their voices is further disheartening.

Filing an FIR? What’s the use?

In one of the panel discussions, Pearl Daruwalla, one of the panellists, underlined the increasing number of cases from dating apps where the perpetrators were harassing and blackmailing the members of the queer community. She talked about the involvement of government officials in these crimes. Social stigma has led people to be ignorant of how a queer person feels. This provides a breeding ground for perpetrators to harass members of the queer community. Yet, this ignorance causes the community to believe they are meant to be harassed. This is why many queer individuals do not report their incidents to the police. So, what causes this fear of reporting? After all, the police, as an executive body, are responsible for enforcing the laws without any fear or favour. So, why cannot the queer community seek justice?

According to our panellists, most extortion cases begin from online dating apps. However, many queer individuals fear seeking justice due to the following two reasons:

1. They have to come out to society publicly.

Many queer individuals are uncomfortable with coming out to society due to the fear of being harassed and mistreated by those who condemn them. They fear that their friends and relatives will ostracise them. This creates a lot of physical and mental health implications and, in some cases, can lead to even suicide.

2. They fear the reaction from the police and judiciary.

Irrespective of how progressive our law becomes, individuals who are a part of the criminal justice system are not open to accepting the queer community. They become ignorant without understanding what it means to be queer. Hence, a lot of queer individuals do not get proper access to justice. On the contrary, they are physically mistreated. An incident in Telangana involved a victim accounting how the police and the judiciary had disdained him in his case against a group of males who tried to extort money from him. Instances like this portray the collective failure of India’s criminal justice system in delivering access to justice to the victims who need it the most.

Sensitising the Police

One can argue that Section 377 decriminalisation might have reduced the number of extortion cases. In reality, the problem continues to persevere, if not deepen, as many members of the queer community still face harassment from law enforcement agencies across the country. The lack of sensitisation among police officers has led to a situation where they are committing crimes against the queer community themselves. For instance, in Pune, the police arrested 150 queer members at a private gathering. In another incident, a young gay man was abused verbally and physically before being forced to the nearest police station. Another encounter with police harassment involved four queer friends being forced to disrobe and write declarations stating that they would never cross-dress.

As more incidents surface, the need to sensitise the police in India also escalates. The police have a responsibility to ensure that it does not violate the constitutional rights of individuals. The Constitution and rights thereof are available for every citizen in the country. Hence, the police needs to maintain the law and order in the society by allowing queer people to exercise their rights freely. How is that possible?

Answering this Possibility

The police, being a stakeholder within the Indian justice system, should be familiar with the fact that the rights of queer individuals are not different from the rights of any other Indian citizen. This means that they must treat queer individuals equally. The need to bring awareness to law enforcement agencies is even more vital with queer individuals who work in these agencies. A deeply demoralising case involved extortion by a constable for threatening to publish a queer SHO’s (Station House Officer) video. Subsequently, the state police unit suspended both the perpetrator and the victim as their actions harmed the police’s public image.

For most people, the police is the first point of contact for complaints. They must treat the complaints with dignity and respect and provide them with adequate support. Even if crimes against queer individuals happen online, they tend to impact their real life, causing mental, physical, and financial harm to these individuals. Hence, this warrants a speedy investigation and trial of the case, even if it means giving assurance to the victim. The police must, therefore, remove any barriers hindering the victim’s access to justice rather than creating such obstacles.

There is a dire need to undertake trust-building initiatives in the country’s criminal justice system. The police should actively contribute to making the queer community aware of their rights and the mechanisms of reporting their cases. By doing so, they can play the role of a missing part and link the chains of accessing justice for the queer community.


So, what did Patruni do when they were harassed? They went to the police, of course! And they did so “without a hinge of doubt.” They believe that showing fear will not only make the police doubt them, but they may also be unable to make their case properly. They showed courage and reassured themselves that they should not be ashamed of something they did not do. Their experience is undoubtedly of value to not just the police but also the queer community. Are you ready to step forward and deliver the same amount of courage? Remember, come what may, we are always here to help.