The Electric Pink Sari Vigilantes: Down With Abusive Husbands, Etc.

“Clad in electric pink saris, the all-female gang shames abusive husbands and corrupt politicians. Amana Fontanella-Khan talks to the woman behind the largest women’s vigilante group in the world.”

I love the concept of shaming abusive husbands (or abusive wives or in-laws for that matter). The quote above is from an article about India’s Pink Gang, the largest women’s vigilante group in the world.

When the police are paid by oppressors not to help victims and when the community looks the other way at injustice, these women ante up their own resources to find solutions. They collect food or money, organize protests and demand police action.

Pal, now 48, started the Pink Gang in Uttar Pradesh in 2006.

“Pal’s group gained notoriety in early days for beating up men who abused their wives. If they heard a husband was being violent, they would show up at his door with sticks called laathis—the same wielded by local cops when patrolling their beat—and demand he change his ways. Of the many cases that Pal handles every day, the majority are related to domestic violence, dowry demands, and abusive in-laws—though recently she helped the father of a 17-year-old girl who’d been raped and jailed on a false charge.”

The group has grown to 20,000 women. They’ve gone from acting outside the political system to actually being represented in it. Twenty-one members won panchayat elections and are now working to improve local roads, drinking water and sanitation.

“Before, the village chiefs never used to listen to our issues, but with the Pink Gang in power, life will become easier,” says Usha Patel, a wiry woman who spent many days rallying support for her district commander. “Finally, the poor are getting their rights.”

Pal hopes this represents the beginning of the Pink Gang’s political future—and a way for their power to rise beyond the streets. “It’s important for vigilante groups, especially [those] run by women, to seek some form of social or legal sanction for their existence,” says Atreyee Sen, a fellow at the University of Manchester and the author of Global Vigilantes. “Taking part in formal politics [can] legitimize [their] role.” Pal, for her part, has no plans of backing down. “People have tried to assassinate me, arrest me, abuse me and shut me up,” she says. “But I won’t be quiet until things improve for the women here.”

What’s the link to the American Malayalee community? I hope we grow more representation and voice for women. I hope the abusive are shamed and scorned and the abused are supported. I hope there are vigilantes unafraid to be bold and reject clonism.

I admire the Pink Vigilantes for not being content with feeling helpless, but rather discovering that the poor (or anyone for that matter) do have resources and can effect social change from inside and outside the political system.

You don’t have to wait for a handout or rescue from a person/institution perceived to be superior. The change can come from within the community; the historically suppressed can become the victors and the leaders.

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2 responses to “The Electric Pink Sari Vigilantes: Down With Abusive Husbands, Etc.

  1. wow! that’s pretty amazing! I like the raw, gritty-ness of their actions… if someone’s doing wrong, show up with bats at their front door!

  2. I know this isn’t specific to Kerala, but would you PLEASE do a post on eve teasing and this organization? 🙂

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