Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Indian Women Fight Back.

In India, as in most countries, the people who suffer most from poverty are the women. In one northern state in India, the women have banded together to create a women's gang, called the Pink Gang because they all wear pink saris. The gang was started by women because the local government is corrupt, and women are routinely beaten by men, mistreated, married off at very young ages, denied any opportunity for an education or a decent job, and then may later be abandoned by their husbands.

There are several hundred women members in the Pink Gang. They have their own system of justice because the local police do nothing to help women. They train their members on how to fight with sticks and axes. They have been known to attack and beat up men who abandon their wives, beat their wives, or participate in government corruption which deprives the poor of scarce resources. On one occasion some of the gang members stormed a local police station and attacked a policeman for his refusal to register the complaint of an "untouchable" man who was a member of the poorest class of India.

When asked why they have formed this gang, the women say that no one in the country comes to their defense, nobody helps them. The police are corrupt, the government is corrupt, so they have to take the law into their own hands and enforce it against wrongdoers.

Story from BBC

"A rambunctious and fearless posse recognizable by their pink-colored saris, the Pink Gang is the nemesis of violent husbands and inept government officials. Having personally suffered abuse, members of the vigilante club thrash abusive men, wife beaters and rapists, confront and shame wrongdoers and storm local police stations to accost lackadaisical cops."

"Formed in 2006 by Sampat Pal Devi, 45, who was sold into marriage at nine and became a mother at 13, the gang challenges everything that is unfair and unjust, like some gang of desperados for justice on India’s wilder fringe. "

"The emergence of a women’s vigilante group in Banda is a symptom of deeper social ills. “If elected representatives refuse to heed the voices of ordinary citizens,” says New Delhi-based sociologist Dr Prerna Purohit, “then people have no choice but to take the matter in their own hands. It’s a wake-up call for the government in the world’s largest democracy.”

"(So popular are these local folk heroes that neighborhood shops can't keep up with the demand for pink saris, which women in surrounding villages have taken to wearing in support of their Banda sisters.)

Devi says there are fewer rapes in the area now and more girls attending school. "We don't use violence much anymore," Devi says, beaming. "Now just our name and that we are coming are enough."

Thanks to my friend Jean for bringing this story to me.

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