India’s pink posse hunts down bad guys

If you’re a man in the Banda district of India who beats your wife, demands more dowry, or otherwise mistreats women, you’d better watch out. A posse of vigilante women clad in pink saris may soon come after you, and it’s going to be ugly. The “Gulabi Gang” (Pink Gang) uses sticks (lathis) and cricket bats ...

596744_PinkGang2005.jpg
596744_PinkGang2005.jpg

If you're a man in the Banda district of India who beats your wife, demands more dowry, or otherwise mistreats women, you'd better watch out. A posse of vigilante women clad in pink saris may soon come after you, and it's going to be ugly.

If you’re a man in the Banda district of India who beats your wife, demands more dowry, or otherwise mistreats women, you’d better watch out. A posse of vigilante women clad in pink saris may soon come after you, and it’s going to be ugly.

The “Gulabi Gang” (Pink Gang) uses sticks (lathis) and cricket bats to “teach erring men a lesson.” In one instance, they chased a woman’s abusive, alcoholic husband into a sugarcane field and sorely thrashed him. They also go after corrupt government officials. Last year, they stormed a police station after cops refused to register the case of a low-caste man simply because of his social standing.

This area of India, in the state of Uttar Pradesh (the same state from which the late “bandit queen” Phoolan Devi hailed), is notorious for its ill-treatment of women and people of lower castes. Only 24 percent of women can read (compared with 50 percent of men), domestic violence is rampant, and there are just 846 females per 1,000 males (compared with the state’s average of 879). Bonded labor (a.k.a. slavery) is common, lower-caste children face open discrimination at school, and government officials are corrupt.

Given these circumstances, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. Gulabi Gang founder Sampat Pal Devi, who was married off at age 9 and had her first child at 13, says:

Nobody comes to our help in these parts. The officials and police are corrupt and anti-poor. So sometimes we have to take the law into our own hands. At other times, we prefer to shame the wrongdoers. But we’re not a gang in the usual sense of the term. We’re a gang for justice.

Until the rule of law can be established, it looks like justice will be have to administered via grrrl power.

Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2016 and was an FP assistant editor from 2007 to 2009. Twitter: @pjaroonFP

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