AN ARMY IN PINK

Superheroes

If you're a woman born in rural India, the odds are stacked against you. There's a 40% chance that your birth won't be registered, a 47% chance you'll be married off before 18, and a shocking 53% possibility that you will not only be beaten by your husband, but that both of you will think it's completely justified. Unless you live in the Banda district of Uttar Pradesh, where a group of women called the Gulabi Gang (Pink Sari Gang) and their bamboo sticks keep the men in check.

The founder of the group, Sampat Pal Devi, was the daughter of a poor shepherd, whose life seemed to be following the pattern that society had set out for her - married at 12, and a mother at 15. It all changed when she saw a man beating his wife mercilessly, and returned with five friends and bamboo sticks to give him the thrashing he deserved. Since then, the Gulabi Gang has expanded to include many women from her village, all of whom patrol the area dressed in their signature bright pink saris, with large bamboo sticks as their only weapon against male chauvinism. The gang has also expanded their realm of influence, having thrashed not only abusive husbands, but also purveyors of child marraiges, policemen who refuse to record complaints of domestic violence and government officials who neglect their duty.

There might be something slightly barbaric, even comical about the group of ladies in pink saris and bamboo sticks, but considering that it has almost 20,000 members (and a corresponding number of thrashings) to its name, the Gulabi Gang seems to be creating quite a stir.

Image: gulabigang.in