The World Health Organization estimates that 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced some kind of physical or sexual violence. In Australia alone, one in three women over the age of 15 have experienced physical violence, and one in five have experienced sexual violence. Violence against women is not only disgusting, illegal, and preventable, it’s costing Australia the lives of over 70 women a year, and an estimated $14.7B in taxpayer money in anti-violence measures.
Meet the Gulabi Gang, an Indian group of female vigilantes who have had enough. Founded by former child bride and government health worker Sampat Pal Devi, the Gulabis describe themselves as a ‘gang for justice’. They wear bright pink saris (not only to be easily identified, but because they believe it is the colour of life), wield bamboo sticks, and essentially target corrupt officials and men who abuse women. They have taken it into their own hands to stop child marriages, encourage education for female children, publicly shame molesters, and oppose corruption in government administration.
The group is primarily based in Uttar Pradesh in Northern India, a feudal district marked by poverty and patriarchy. The government simply isn’t willing to take violence against women seriously in these areas, and the official justice system is virtually nonexistent. Perhaps making way for a degree of vigilante justice is not only appropriate, but also highly necessary for raising awareness about such a serious issue.
Now, having been active for over 8 years, the group is taking on more than just abusive husbands and corrupt officials. With 21 of their members winning local elections in 2011, they have become politically involved and oversee the development of local infrastructures such as roads and the supply of clean drinking water.
Sampat Pal Devi has faced a lot of criticism regarding her aggressive approach to dealing with violence. Gulaab Gang, a recently released Bollywood film, portrays Sampat Pal as violent and merciless. Whether the portrayal is accurate or not is a separate issue, but the extreme powerlessness of these women within their unjust society has forced them to take extreme action.
Injustice will almost always create a resisting force capable of sparking conflict and potentially leading to change. It’s the day humanity loses its will to fight that we lose our humanity, and it’s people like Sampat Pal Devi who are willing to charge the opposition and keep fighting the good fight.