India’s Gulabi Gang, or the Pink Gang, as they’re more commonly known around the world, has caught the eye of people across the world The women of India’s Pink Gang are famous for the colour of their saris, the bamboo sticks they carry and the justice they bring to their home country.
Sampat Pal founded the Pink Gang in 2006 in an attempt to bring justice to female victims in India, and the group has since spread from its rural beginnings into a nationwide movement with more than 400K members. These women, who are fighting against an incredibly high rate of rape and enforcing justice where the police are turning a blind eye, find strength in numbers and are all trained in self-defense with the stick to battle potential attackers.
“The purpose of the Gulabi Gang was to unite women, because, until women unite, we will never get what I believe are our rights,” Sampat says to HBO’s Vice, who aired an episode about the Pink Gang earlier this year.
In India a rape occurs every 20 minutes, and the number of rapes has risen 900% in the past 40 years. In December 2012, a 23-year-old woman was brutally gang raped in Delhi in an attack spanning several hours and left nearly dead, and the entire country was forced to open their eyes to the crimes against women. These 5 adult male attackers were sentenced to death, and the teen boy involved in the attack was sentenced to three years in reform. However, the outcry against these attackers was highly atypical and most rapes in India go un-reported.
HBO’s Vice joined Sampat in the documentary as she went to police stations to talk about these rape cases, and it became clear why India so desperately needs the Pink Gang. When incidents of rape and murder of young women were brought to the police, they ignored the reports, and many officers remained completely silent when questions were directed at them. K. Mishra, a police superintendent from a rural district said in the documentary, “the Indian woman has never suffered. She who fulfills her obligations and duties never suffers.”
It’s evident that the police in India are corrupt, and that the social stigma surrounding rape isn’t helping. In fact, a survey by Transparency International revealed that 62% of women in India who tried to report rape were paid a bribe. In the Vice episode, the parents of a missing girl were offered $200 USD by the police to keep quiet about the crime.
Although Western countries don’t have as high levels of rape as India, we can learn a lot from The Pink Gang. For one, they’re a group largely made up of uneducated, illiterate women who live in a patriarchal society – and yet, they’re standing up against an authority working against them. These women have taken on the important task of defending themselves and each other, and we should look at this as an important lesson to educate ourselves as well. Despite being educated in self-defense, we need to to be educated about the laws that are in place to protect us, as well as the resources available to survivors of rape and sexual assault.
Secondly, there’s strength in numbers. Sampat Pal knew this, and that’s why she founded the Pink Gang. Women from all backgrounds and countries can benefit from following Sampat’s example and seeking out other women they can relate to. If we come together, we can form a community of women to talk about our issues, problem solve and fight against our patriarchal society.
We should never give up the fight to keep women safe – even when authorities aren’t taking reports of rape and sexual assault as seriously as they should. “No one wants to fight a very powerful victim,” says Dr. Pulkit Sharma from the documentary. “Various political and social movements around the world have happened when the oppressed people have gotten together and have expressed their voice consistently. You keep on doing it, and you see a change happening.”