India is a country of arranged marriages. Young couples get matched by their parents and the divorce rate is low – this might be surprising to certain western cultures.

After all, how can we wrap our heads around the fact that two people have entered an institution based on compromise, love and physical attraction for life when they have only had a few interactions before the wedding. Sometimes one, sometimes three. But that’s about it.

But younger generations are adopting less conservative and traditional practices. Casual dating, especially in more “progressive” cities like Mumbai is becoming more and more popular. Access to social media, online dating and apps like Tinder are on the uptake on the sub-continent just as much as anywhere else in the world.

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But while these platforms have the potential to make meeting people and setting up social interactions with potential life partners easier, there are a lot of warning signs that are surfacing and certainly require more attention.

How many times for example as a woman have you been hesitant to meet a man you don’t actually know because you don’t really know what you’re walking into? Is he a good person? Does he have abusive or violent tendencies? What is his relationship history like?

Have you ever set up an emergency call with a friend to get you out of a potentially dangerous situation? Have you had a friend sit secretively on the table next to you to boost you sense of safety and confidence?

These scenes probably sound like they come straight out of a movie, but trust me, it happens. I myself have exercised a few of them in the past. 

And not without reason. South Africa has the highest gender violence rate in the world. According to the World Health Organization’s Violence and Injury Prevention Programme, our country’s femicide rate is five times more than the global rate. In 2015 for example, the global rate for femicide was 2.4 per 100 000 women. South Africa’s rate for the same year was 9.6 per 100 000 women. 

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Am I going to be abducted? Prostituted? Human trafficked? Raped? These are all questions, which have crossed my mind when faced with meeting someone for the first time after an arranged date via social media. And then of course there’s the dark net. The vacuum of web activity that exists beneath the surface of what the average internet user is able to access. A place where communities like self-proclaimed incels thrive. What’s an incel?

In a nutshell, it’s a pretty sick society of men who have pathologised something they refer to as “involuntary celibacy”. At it’s heart, incels are fueled by anger and entitlement. Men who think they are entitled to sex and who can’t understand that women will not sleep with them because of this inherent entitlement. Their narrative is that they are ugly and women are whores who will “give it up” to hotter men instead of them, so what’s their solution? To pillage and rape and kill. 

More and more women in India are requesting social media background checks, or Internet behavioral analysis as a whole. And, the agency environment has also changed.

A quote from an incel on a Reddit platform for example reads, and I paraphrase: Women cannot be lonely, sad, depressed, mentally ill etc. Women can be whores, sluts, prostitutes, property items, livestock, possessions, sex dolls or maids. 

When you, as a woman, go on an online date, are you unknowingly walking into a incel trap with someone who firmly believes in psychopathic femicide? Is Tinder helping or is Tinder weaponising? India has the answer in the form of the matrimonial detective.

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Agencies like this exist all over the country. Women and the parents of women in the past have used detective agencies to do credit checks on potential suitors and verify university qualifications etc. But social media has changed the role of these PIs.

More and more women in India are requesting social media background checks, or internet behavioral analysis as a whole. And, the agency environment has also changed. In the past, most of the detectives were men, now, many agencies are run by women who have a better understanding of the dangers out there and the inner operations of the tendencies of violent men.

Before women accept dates online, they request these background checks. The reports offer answers to questions like: has this man trolled anyone online? What is his language like? Who has he trolled? What kinds of things does he say? Is he aggressive and does he have a tendency for violence? 

In a country where the rate for violence against women often results in death is four times the amount of the global average, perhaps the dating detective is the answer to at least some of our problems as women who seek the happiness and pleasures of a relationship they deserve, but often receive the opposite.

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