Ever since the pandemic struck, the way people date has not been the same. Dating apps now play the cupid for more people than ever. However, safety remains a key concern for users. More so for members of the LGBTQIA+ community. The recent killing of Yash Rastogi, a 22-year-old LLB student from Meerut, by people he met on a gay dating app has once again brought this issue to the fore. Earlier this year, a group of three men were arrested in Faridabad for blackmailing at least 25 men for money after befriending them on a gay dating app. Such tales of horror are rampant on these apps.
A 25-year-old architect, on condition of anonymity, shares a similar incident, calling it “the worst night” of his life. He recalls, “I was meeting a guy via a dating app for the first time. He took me to an abandoned place. Suddenly, four men arrived and started asking for money, saying they will call the cops on us if we don’t. They hit me, broke my glasses and asked me to pay ₹50,000.” It was when he noticed that the guy who brought him there was absconding, he realised he was a bait to extort money.
Sharing a similar tale, 23-year-old student, Devansh, who identifies as non-binary, says, “A guy pursued me for a while and kept in touch on an app. I thought it was heading somewhere, but he started asking me to lend him money. As soon as I gave in, he started ignoring me. When I asked him about the money, he kept stalling and eventually, blocked me.”
Opining on what makes people from the community more vulnerable on such apps, gay activist and technical artist Anwesh Sahoo says, “There is so much trauma involved around being queer in our country and it’s so easy to vilify any queer person. Cruising (walking or driving around certain areas, looking for sexual partners) used to be a major way of meeting other members of the community in the past. It still exists and is very unsafe.” Mental health counseller and LGBTQIA+ activist Deepak Kashyap adds, “It’s hard to target an out and proud gay person as they have nothing else to expose. But when someone is not out, there’s a possibility of exposing that they are going out with someone of the same sex.”
So, how can people safely navigate on dating apps? “Make sure to meet people in public spaces. If you are meeting someone for the first time, send their pictures to a friend, along with basic info about where you are meeting,” suggests Kashyap. Life coach Aamit Shah adds, “Never share personal info such as address and number on these apps. Try to have a virtual interaction with them before meeting in person. Also, do a quick search of their LinkedIn or Facebook profile to verify information.”
Author tweets @digvijayitis