Three gang members were arrested by Indian police in Ahmedabad on Tuesday in connection with a string of robbery and assaults on men they had targeted through Grindr.
The men are accused of using the app to find victims and lure them to secluded places, where they would be battered and robbed, Reuters reports. In some instances, the attackers forced their victims to send bank transfers.
“Those arrested have confessed to having robbed at least 15 or 20 people using the same method in the last four months,” J.P. Jadeja, a police officer in Ahmedabad, told the news agency.
While gay sex has been decriminalized in the country since 2018, ongoing stigma, particularly in the rural communities where religious and conservative groups remain in power, means many queer Indians feel compelled to remain in the closet. However, keeping their sexuality hidden has the added effect of making them vulnerable targets for those who, like the accused, seek to exploit their secrets.
The gang members reportedly believed that this was the case: that victims would remain quiet out of fear of being outed. However, that assumption proved incorrect, as one victim went to the police to report the crime.
Despite Grindr’s pledge of a “zero-tolerance policy” toward discrimination and attempts to crack down on abusive behavior on its platform, this string of robberies is not an isolated incident. Over the years, there have been several incidents of similar crimes in India.
In September 2019, a teen was kidnapped and held for ransom by a man he met through the app. In February 2020, upwards of 50 Indian executives, including a CEO, were “honey trapped” and blackmailed on Grindr. Most recently, four men in Uttar Pradesh’s Greater Noida were arrested in June 2021 for allegedly gang-raping, filming, and blackmailing another man who they met through Grindr.