Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Pink gang in India

In a culture ridden with socioeconomic, gender, and caste discrimination, a group of women in India has taken it upon themselves to form a “gang” for justice.  The “gulabi” gang or pink gang is named for the pink saris members wear. The group was initially formed in the state of Uttar Pradesh by a former child bride living in poverty, Sampat Pal Devi. It has been reported to be active in Northern India as well.  The gang touts at least 20,000 members, and even a chapter in France.

The group represents the poorest of poor women, against child marriage, dowry, female illiteracy, honor killings and other violence against women for starters.  “Village society in India is loaded against women. It refuses to educate them, marries them off too early, barters them for money."

This vigilante group has been known to beat transgressors, such as men who beat their wives.  They act outside the “law” because they claim NGOs and government officials are corrupt, or just do not represent this forgotten rung of impoverished, low-caste women. Vigilantes are defined as volunteers organized to suppress and punish crime without legal authority.

The word vigilante without a doubt has a negative connotation, but the media has represented these women positively as women’s rights advocates.  In 2008, a group of these women “stormed an electricity office in Banda district and forced officials to turn back the power they had cut in order to extract bribes.”

It is ironic that a seemingly pro-women’s, powerful, highly feminist, literally male-bashing gang, still revolves on the idea that a woman needs a man.  The ultimate goal is not a woman’s self-sufficiency, or success, but just the most primitive protection of basic human rights.  This gang wants to ideally return outcast women back to their husbands, or their fathers.

The pink sorority is not exactly a group of male-bashing feminists - they have returned 11 girls who were thrown out of their homes to their spouses because "women need men to live with".

This forces me to question, whether even the most progressive, strong women, will always be defined by or in need, of a man.  How much progress has really been made from the Blackwell era of a woman being property, defined by first her father, and then her husband?

Additional Information: Wikipedia
Official Website


Jihan A. Kahssay said...

Rupali, you make a very good point. This is also an conflict that I struggle with: the realization that a lot of the gains and efforts of women are still framed within a masculine society.

Instead of aiming for a restructuring of the entire framework (i.e., we want women to be self-sufficient), these women are operating within the framework to maximize their effective rights (i.e., to be kindly and fairly cared for by men). It begs the question whether the choices before us as women within a masculine society are real and comprehensive choices?

Thanks for the blog!

Charlene said...

This is definitely a question that plays on my mind - will women, even strong women, always be defined by the men they stand next to? My hope is not. We stand on our own. In the past month, twice I've met a female friend or acquaintance of my boyfriend, to the response: "You're the girlfriend," with index finger pointed straight at me, even though I was only two feet away from them. Yes, I'm the girlfriend. But I'm also me.

Undeniably though, I'm also an us.

But, I imagine it like a venn diagram - my identity is one circle, and my boyfriend's another, and our life together forms that middle overlapping part. If there's too much overlap, we start to encroach on each other's personhood, and one circle starts to try to expel the other. But if there's too little, there's not enough connection and compromise to hold onto. But there's this magic place where my identity is mine, and his is his, but we are connected.

When someone points at me and says "You're the girlfriend," it grates on me because it only acknowledges the existence of his circle, and not mine. In Jihan's more sophisticated terms, my identity was being "framed within a masculine society."

Attisaurus said...

What a fascinating women's social movement! I don't necessarily see this as a "returning a woman to her keeper and rightful owner" situation, but also possibly as a "you were wrongfully seen as disposable by your family, and we are going to take you back and help you show them how wrong they were"?

"This gang wants to ideally return outcast women back to their husbands, or their fathers."

Is it at all possible that the pink gang women are vigilante crime fighters who seek to liberate women from their sexist family circumstances, empower them, and then ultimately return them to those situations to fight their own battles? I just think there are a lot more factual questions we need answers to before passing judgment.