Following the #BoisLockerRoom controversy that stirred up a storm on social media on May 4, in India, a 15-year-old Delhi boy was taken into custody yesterday, in connection to the case. Police were also able to identify 21 other teens who were members of the Instagram group chat called "Bois Locker Room", on which obscene messages and morphed photos of underage girls were shared.
On May 3, leaked screenshots of this private Instagram chat group, run by teenage schoolboys, mostly from grade 11 and 12, drew massive shock and disgust on Twitter in India, and led to discussions over rape culture in the country. Hashtags related to the 'Boy's locker room' trended in India.
The 21 students who study in south Delhi schools were identified with the help of the teen in custody. They were questioned yesterday and their phones seized. Indian news reports say that the interrogation will continue today.
Reportedly, when questioned by the police, the students mostly claimed that they were not active participants of the group. And, that they had been added to it by others.
The police have yet to get a response to their request for details from Facebook-owned Instagram.
The chatroom was exposed after teen influencers in India shared details about it in their Instagram stories. The boys were sharing nude and morphed photos of underage women, followed by lewd discussions on their bodies, in a group chat that became active during India’s COVID-19 lockdown.
Does #ToxicMasculinity start young in India
While some participants were above the age of 18 and have been identified, it is believed that some boys as young as 13, were also members of the group. The #BoisLockerRoom or #Boyslockerroom trend also led to a debate on toxic masculinity and objectification of girls starting young among boys in India.
Many took to Twitter to discuss how such an attitude towards girls was normalised in the country, and that often children pick up the behaviour from the way adult men around them treat women.
Some urged parents of boys to talk to their children about violence, gender, sex, respect, boundaries, consent, today.
Tweep @AgentsofIshq observed: “The #BoisLockerroom conversations have made clearer than ever that there needs to be a serious place of reflection around masculine privilege and conformity, and to create a new language of respect, self-respect, consent and emotional resilience.”
Some debated the need for greater control over children’s internet activity.
In a statement, Instagram said it gave top priority to ensure that its users can express themselves in a "safe and respectful way".
"We absolutely do not allow behaviour that promotes sexual violence or exploits anyone, especially women and young people, and have actioned content violating our Community Standards as we were made aware of it," a Facebook spokesperson said.
The company said the objectionable content that violated its community standards was removed as soon as it was made aware of it.
Teen commits suicide, police probe connection
Meanwhile, a teen in the city of Gurugram committed suicide in India, police are probing the matter for connection to the #BoisLockerRoom case.
According to a report by the news agency, IANS: “A class 12 student allegedly committed suicide in Gurugram's upscale residential condominium in DLF phase 5 area on Tuesday night. The deceased, a resident of Gurugram, jumped from the balcony of his building at around 11pm on Tuesday. The local police are investigating the case.
Reportedly, police said the teen seems to have committed suicide hours after he was named by a girl in a “#MeToo” post on Instagram on the day when the “Bois Locker Room” group controversy went viral.
The local police is investigating his alleged involvement in Bois Locker Room Instagram account. The police started a suicide inquiry under Section 174 of the Code of Criminal Procedure after parents refused to file a complaint.
"We have seized his mobile phone and sent to the forensic lab for analysis. We have also involved cybercrime cell to investigate his social media accounts and nature of chatting he does, to understand his character and the possible reason for taking the extreme step," said Deepak Kumar, SHO of Sector 53 police station.
“No suicide note was found but messages retrieved from the boy’s phone showed that fellow students warned him that he will be questioned by the police.” said an officer. Further action will be taken only after detailed reports of his mobile analysis is received.
Deepak Mathur, the forensic expert who conducted the autopsy, said: “There were multiple injuries, including head injury, which caused the death."
The private Gurgaon school where he studied, said in a statement: “We are extremely shocked and saddened by the sudden death of one of our students under unfortunate circumstances. At this stage, we as a school together with our extended community, truly believe that it is the time to grieve this incommensurable loss that has hit our community. Our deepest and heartfelt condolences are with the family of the young and bright student we have lost, as we know, there are no means for us to fathom the anguish and grief they are facing.”
Another debate: Was this trial by social media?
The suicide also led to the discussion of how this name-and-shame method will affect the young members of the group.
Tweep @iMishraRavi called #boislockerroom a “Social Media trial” and posted: “Even if he was guilty he had the right for a fair trial. I can't say more. The unhealthy influence of mob justice is rising tremendously in India. #boislockeroom”
And, @flightofsand posted: “Regarding the boy who killed himself for fear of being arrested after being named in the Bois Locker Room fallout: it isn't that feminism or metoo have gone too far but that our system of justice and policing is inhuman.”