What do you do when you’re trying to take a nice, peaceful walk around town when you see some guy beating his girl in the middle of the street? Let’s face it, some of us would walk on past and others would give him quite a mouthful. Well, then-53-year-old Indian woman Sampat Pal Devi took it even one step farther: she found other women from the village and together they publically beat him in front of the entire village with hard bamboo sticks called lathis.
That was in 2002. Devi’s story spread like wildfire and she soon found herself with hundreds of these demands on a daily basis. So in 2006, in the extremely impoverished Banda District of Uttar Pradesh, north India, she started the Gulabi Gang, also called the “Pink Gang.” Today the group, identifiable by their pink saris, no-slack attitudes, and bamboo lathis, is 400,000 strong and encompasses people from all over India. Part of their mission still involves the public shaming of molesters and the removal of corrupt public officials from India’s power sources. According to the BBC, the group has “…stormed a police station and attacked a policeman after they took in an untouchable man and refused to register a case.” Devi merely had to mention her name over the phone with the police and they would immediately start work on whatever case she brought up to avoid consequences.
But the group does not merely resort to violence to achieve their goal of an India without such harsh gender inequity. Devi advocates, “…having established self-help and legal counseling groups to address individual cases…programs to achieve [female] emancipation. From savings funds to events with companies, where women can be hired.” The Gang has also taken steps to provide rural couples with access to a legitimate wedding if they are in love but their parents frown upon the match. While in these remote areas of India, they also work to prevent child marriage and raise awareness about the evils of dowries in marriage. This message proved to be so useful that even some Indian men have joined the gang, believing the Gulabi Gang to help their daughters’ lives be better in the future.
While Devi is no longer a part of the Gulabi Gang after allegations of Devi using Gang resources for personal gain, the group’s goals and influence over the law remains the same. If you want to help the Gang further achieve their mission, you can donate so that your money can help fund the legal counseling and the campaigns for safe marriage and marital rights in India.
When men won’t hear what women have to say, when they turn a blind eye to a rape every twenty minutes, when peace isn’t working anymore, sometimes the only way for progress is paved with force.