The Gulabi (pink) Gang, is a group of about 10,000 women who have banded together to combat male violence and corruption in one of India’s poorest regions, the Banda district in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. These brave and brazen women have become folk heroes, winning public support with their successful series of militant actions against abusive husbands, corrupt officials and indifferent police.
Their name, Gulabi, means pink. The members of the group wear bright shocking pink saris, because pink is the color of life. Armed with traditional sticks, or lathi these pink vigilantes go after corrupt officials and boorish men, striking fear in the hearts of wrongdoers and earning the grudging respect of officials.
“Mind you, we are not a gang in the usual sense of the term. We are a gang for justice,” declares the gang’s founder, Sampat Devi Pal, is a 46-year-old mother of five who, like the other women lives in a mud-brick hut with no running water or electricity, and survives on less than $1. per day.
In this extremely poor area, women bear the brunt of poverty and discrimination in Banda’s highly caste-ridden, feudalistic and male dominated society. Rough demands for dowries, domestic and sexual violence and child marriages are common — Pal herself was married off at the tender age nine and had her first child at thirteen.
Village society in India is loaded against women. It refuses to educate them, marries them off too early, barters them for money. Village women need to study and become independent to sort it out themselves.
To recruit new members for her group Queen Pal traveled from village to village belting out her repertoire of rousing protest songs urging women to “uproot the corrupt and be self reliant.” Her stated goal was “to lift them out of the black hole they’d been pushed into.”
In the two years after they gave themselves a name and a uniform, the pink sorority sisters have thrashed men who have abandoned or beaten their wives, returned girls who were thrown out of their homes to their spouses with dire warnings against further ill treatment, and unearthed fraud in the distribution of grain to the poor.
“Nobody comes to our help in these parts,” states Pal. “The police and officials are corrupt and anti-poor. So sometimes we have to take the law into our own hand. At other times, we prefer to shame the wrongdoers.”
You go, gals!
I Adore that pink! It’s the navy blue of India!
– Diana Vreeland
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