While I sit here writing this post, there is a gang of over 30,000 women in Northern India, wearing pink saris, brandishing bamboo sticks (lathis), fighting for women’s rights and justice. They are called the Gulabi Gang and their leader Sampat Pal Devi, is a formidable force. They were born out of one of the poorest rural areas where women are discriminated against on the account of being female and poor. In an area where child-marriages, dowries, and domestic violence rule the social construct, Sampat is tearing down these harmful traditions by means of persuasion, education, and sometimes force. If a man beats his wife and Sampat hears about it, she and her gang of woman warriors will travel to that man’s house with their bamboo sticks at the ready.
The treatment of women before the start of Sampat’s Gulabi Gang was appalling, with accounts of girls being burned, beaten, or sold as children wives. Sampat is now a feared leader, her reputation and her strong debating skills swaying those who oppose her to the side of reason. The birth of this gang began rather unexpectedly. Sampat witnessed a man beating his wife, she pleaded with him to stop but he beat her, as well. The next day, she returned with five other women and beat the man with bamboo sticks. This story spread. Women began coming to her, asking for her help. Soon she had a following of thousands. They proudly march through their villages in pink saris, fighting corruption and abuse. They consider themselves a ‘gang for justice.’
It just took one woman to stand up and declare that she had enough! So what will it take before we also stand up and declare that we have had enough? When will we wield our own proverbial lathis and become a ‘gang for justice’? I’m not suggesting we literally beat our abusers into submission. Although, to be honest, I have fantasized about that on occasion. But I am suggesting we take on a more aggressive approach. We must systematically work on eradicating violence and emotional abuse.
We march through the city in our ‘pink saris’ with our ‘lathis’ and we let the world know that this is no longer okay.
Our children are being indoctrinated with the toxins of manipulation and violence, stemming from a lack of education. We grow up in abusive environments, thinking it is normal. We repeat that behavior in front of our children, then they repeat that behavior to their children, and so the cycle continues, until it is part of our genetic makeup. I know this sounds radical, but bear with me. According to Safe Horizon, “more than 3 million children witness domestic violence in their homes every year” and “without help, boys who witness domestic violence are far more likely to become abusers of their partners and/or children as adults, thus continuing the cycle of violence in the next generation. Without help, girls who witness domestic violence are more vulnerable to abuse as teens and adults.”
How do we combat this sensitive and highly erosive problem? We speak out against it. We march through the city in our ‘pink saris’ with our ‘lathis’ and we let the world know that this is no longer okay, this is no longer normal. We let others know that there is help out there, warriors of our own that run safe houses for victims and programs that help build economic independence. We make sure our children know what a healthy relationship is. We make sure our children can witness a healthy marriage or union. Domestic violence should no longer be a hushed topic that is tucked away or snuffed out. All of its dirty little secrets should be brought to light, so the ugly truth is there for all to see.
It only takes one person to start a movement. Will you be the next Sampat Pal Devi? Will you speak out against abuse? Help us and our communities by refusing to give in to the oppression of abuse and the toll it takes on all of us. This is not an isolated issue. Abuse affects us all. It affects our schools, our children, our community, our work, and our future as a society. It is time we took a stand. Help us fight for justice!
How can you help? Share your own stories with friends and family, you never know who needs to hear. Share our blog to help spread the word. Leave a comment if you have your own experience or story to tell, you may help at least one person realize they are not alone.
*image pulled from Plaid Zebra