In recent years India has been the in spotlight for their treatment of women and in particular the horrific gang rape and death of a student on a bus in Delhi. With the seemingly rampant sexual violence and the historic lack action on part of the Indian police, it would appear that India’s women are powerless in the face of misogyny and apathy. Still there are a few women who will not sit back and allow this inequality to continue unpunished. Enter the warrior women of India.
The Gulabi Gang is a group of women’s rights activists/vigilantes, formed in 2006 by Sampat Pal Devi in the Banda District in Utter Pradesh (Northern India) Their trademark is the pink saris that members wear (gulabi is Hindi for pink). While their primary aim is to promote the rights of girls against child marriage; general rights of women and punishment of abusers are also prevalent. Where punishment is concerned, the Gulabis have been known to brandish bamboo sticks and accost suspected abusers. Early in their history, Gulabis were focused on bring those who perpetrated domestic abuse (be them fathers, brothers, husbands or other intimate male relatives). Given such unrepentant patriarchy and the historically held view that women are mere objects owned by the men in their lives. It is not a stretch to believe that the police have not been proactive in protecting women and girls, seeing these matters as more a family issue than a crime.
If this were a Tarantino, revenge style film. I would cheer these ladies for taking action against violent crimes. Standing up to misogyny in a show of blood spatter vengeance. However while I feel deep sympathy for what the Gulabis stand for and what many have likely endured. Street justice is a risky method of dealing out justice. Without clear proof of guilt and without professional unbiase. Innocent people can be harmed just by someone deciding that they have done wrong. Then no one safe. You end up with a system that you can be beaten of even killed based on hearsay or rumour. Vigilant violence must never be the way of a just society. I know that the legal system is far from perfect and if you have been a victim of sexual assault you fear that you will not be believed. In the UK of all the sexual assaults and rapes that occur only a fraction of victims come forward and of those that do, an even smaller end in a conviction. I understand why many survivors may choose to not press charges; the stress of repeating of your story, physical examination and testifying in court. Please note that I abhor sexual violence of any kind, there is no justification, minimising or excuse for such purposeful sadism. In India, these factors combined with a blasé police force and any caste based discrimination. Must make victims feel that they will never achieve justice. So where do you go? If I grew up with so much hostility towards me as a woman and feared that I would be victimised, knowing that I would be treated like filth by the authorities. Maybe I would wrap myself in a pink sari, grab a stick and find an abuser and make them feel the same fear that they instill in their victims.