Slate has a fascinating story about gulabis — gangs of women in rural India who wear pink saris seeking justice for abused wives. 40-year old Sampat Pal Devi started the movement with a few friends in 2006. They began by visiting a few husbands who refused to stop beating their wives, intimidating them into changing their minds by brandishing bamboo sticks. The movement now has more than 200,000 members; Pal travels from village to village on a bicycle to keep the momentum going.
Pal has a long list of criminal charges against her, including unlawful assembly, rioting, attacking a government employee, and obstructing an officer in the discharge of duty, and she even had to go into hiding. Her feistiness has secured notable victories for the community, however. In 2008, the group ambushed the local electricity office, which was withholding electricity until members received bribes or sexual favors in return for flicking the switch back on. The stick-wielding gulabi stormed the company grounds and proceeded to rough up the staff inside the building. An hour later, the power was back on in the village.As the article points out, women who suffered from human rights abuses like honor killings, infanticide, and child marriages would take their own lives to escape their fate. But recent progress in the political arena — like an affirmative action bill passed in March that would reserve 33% of parliamentary seats for woman — has made women realize that they can find power in numbers and fight back.
The silver lining here is that while Indian democracy is too weak to deliver on the gender equality that is inscribed in its constitution, it is strong enough not to crush movements like the pink gang. This is also thanks to the free media, which has boomed since the '90s and which glorifies the work of the gulabis.The women's gangs of India [Slate]
I'm a contributing editor here at Boing Boing. I also have a blog (TokyoMango), a book (Urawaza), and I freelance for Wired, Make, the NY Times Magazine, PRI's Studio360, etc. I'm @tokyomango on Twitter.