There is a collective of brave women located in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, who call themselves the Gulabi Gang — literally meaning “pink gang” which explains the women’s bold uniforms of bright pink saris. The Gulabi Gang is made up of thousands of women who take on common causes such as attacks, child marriage, domestic violence, and general discrimination against perpetrators by threatening to use collective force (3 Feb. 2019). Today, this powerful gang is known to be one of the most noticeable and victorious movements against both gender violence and inequality throughout India. The leader herself, Sampat Pal, describes this gang as “not a gain in the usual sense of the term. We are a gang for justice” (3 Feb. 2019).
The Gulabi Gang was founded and led by Sampat Pal during the year 2006. Sampat Pal was born and raised in the Banda district, Uttar Pradesh. She was born into a poor family where she spent the majority of her days caring for sheep and cattle along with her brothers. Sampat Pal lived a normal childhood until the age of 12, when she was married to a resident of the Banda district of UP (2014, March 07). She became a mother at the age of 15 and within the next following years, she gave birth to four more children. Not only did Pal start a special role of being a mother, but she also began speaking up for her own beliefs about women’s justice. However, this was very difficult due to her country having specific cultural views of women.
Many countries, including India, have society-centered macrosystem quality standards that can aggravate gender-based violence (2002, June 01). Traditional or cultural gender roles commonly assure that men are superior to women and more valued as well as dominant towards women. This increases the likelihood of domestic violence toward women. India has been indicted as humanity’s largest violation of human rights (27 Apr. 2018). Violence on an everyday basis is very common in India. As stated by Deepa Narayan from the Guardian, over 50% of women and men still today believe that women deserve a beating (27 Apr. 2018).
This beating could simply be caused by too much dependency or not enough effort in the household. Women are typically viewed as “living in their lives almost exclusively for the males” (2002, June 01). This can create an idea that women are only important or useful for traditional house duties such as cleaning, feeding the family, and caring for the children — putting duty over self. Women are also told to speak softly, to have “no opinions, no arguments, no conflicts”(27 Apr. 2018). Therefore, women are easy to overrule and violate without consequences. Sampat Pal witnessed violence against women on a day-to-day basis and rather than ignoring this issue, she decided to fight for women’s justice.
Around the age of 16, Sampat Pal strongly opposed a neighbor who routinely beat his wife which resulted in Pal’s beating (2014, March 07). She then motivated women to teach the man a lesson by beating him repeatedly with bamboo sticks — the bamboo sticks soon became a symbol, along with the use of pink saris, to express the significance of empowered women that are ready to defend themselves without hesitation against such violent acts. These women, specifically a group of four women who were living in the same neighborhood only allowed this man to return home after her publicly apologized. This little particular act of resentment inspired several women to ask Pal to deliver her special brand of justice to their own homes or villages, where they also are abused. This was only the start of the empowering Gulabi Gang, the number of members continues to grow across the nation.
The Gulabi gang is mainly active in Bundelkhand, which is part of the southern edge of Uttar Pradesh, the other part of Bundelkhand lies in the state of Madhya Pradesh (women in the world). Sampat Pal along with several hundred Indian women serve their justice in their villages while defending themselves from violence and discrimination. However one of the gang’s biggest challenges is the lack of the role of the police fulfill. Sampat Pal states, “nobody comes to our help in these parts. The officials and the police are corrupt and anti-poor. So sometimes we have to take the law into our hands. At other times, we prefer to shame the wrongdoers,’ by teaching members how to use a lathi (traditional Indian stick) in self-defense.” (2007, November 26). In response, the Gulabi Gang acts in ways that must pressure the police to register and investigate cases (n.d.). For example, after the Gulabi Gang was aware that the police failed to register a rape case of women, they soared their opportunity to storm the police station (2012, November 26).
The gang demanded to register the case which the police denied and as a result the gang beat the police with their lathis. Another example is the Gulabi Gang received multiple complaints that a “fair price shop” run by the government had stopped the normal distributions of grain and instead was delivered to corrupt officials (2012, November 26). The Gulabi Gang in response hijacked the truck which held food for the poor (2012, November 26). Other acts of the Gulabi Gang can simply such as protests, and strikes. Sampat Pal examples that the Gulabi Gang has been successful — “Our missions have a 100 percent success rate. We have never failed in bringing justice when it comes to domestic problems. Dealing with the administration is the tricky part since we cannot always take the law into our hands. We did beat up some corrupt officials but we were ultimately helpless.
“The goons of the corrupt officials and the political parties constantly threaten me.” (2016 Oct. 8). The Gulabi Gang has also been successful in gaining support from men. Every husband who allows their wife to join the protests and activities hosted by the Gulabi Gang is supporting the gang as well. Amna Khawar even shares that some men finance the organization (n.d). Their stories and experiences have become films and books that individuals around the world share, influencing many women all across the world.
In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing the Gulabi Gang going forward? One of the biggest challenges will be succession. The Gang heavily relies on Sampat, who is both the founder and commander-in-chief of the group, and it is very unlikely that it would survive without her at the helm. Sampat will need to raise future leaders but she has found it hard to find the right woman to pass the baton on to. Another challenge is whether the Gulabi Gang will survive if Sampat enters into politics, which she is attempting to do.
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