<br>Both websites which also have mobile-friendly applications available on Google Play Store and App Store in India, claim to be the leading online matchmaking service for polygamous marriages. Secondwife.com has more than 4,00,000 users.
These apps were launched in 2014 by a British entrepreneur, Azad Chaiwala, to quote from a report in The Guardian newspaper, with the vision of "offering a man with many wives", as men are more "sexually oriented" and find it difficult to adopt a monogamous lifestyle.
He claimed that polygamy helps women because it inculcates in them "the right team spirit" and learn to "divide domestic and sexual labour".
Calling these sites an anathema to women’s health and dignity, the co-founder of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BBMA), Zakia Soman, told IANS: "Polygamy is not acceptable in the contemporary world as it reinforces patriarchy within the family and violates a woman’s rights to equality, health and dignity."
She added: "In some impoverished societies, where women do not understand patriarchy or feminism, they are forced to enter such arrangements. But this should not be acceptable legally, socially, morally, and ethically. There can be no justification."
This is precisely why the ‘Bulli Bai’ and ‘Sulli Deals’ apps have been universally condemned. These apps target Muslim women by uploading their pictures online, without their consent, to "auction" them.
Sharing the Muslim woman’s perspective on polygamy, Soman said: "Religion or no religion, this should not be permitted, as it contributes to women’s oppression. No educated society is going to encourage polygamy in the day and age."
Some years ago, a similar online dating site called ‘Ayopoligami’ was developed in Indonesia for married men and single women. It had drawn sharp criticism from women’s rights activists as such unions are considered a taboo even in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, despite being technically allowed.
According to Supreme Court advocate Pawan Duggal, although polygamy is illegal in India, it is permitted under the Islamic law. India, he pointed out, does not have any dedicated policies or guidelines pertaining to mobile apps that offer the kind of services being provided by the sites and apps promoting polygamy.
Speaking to IANS, Duggal said: "These kinds of bizarre apps only reiterate the need for our country to come up with a legal national framework to regulate such kind of content and protect the larger Indian culture."
Duggal added: "The notion of a man having four wives while a woman can marry only once strikes at the heart of the concept of an egalitarian society."