RESISTING SUBJUGATION : GULABI GANG

There are two primary levels at which women resist subjugation: 1) large-scale organized public movements, and 2) the quieter and more subtle resistance at the individual level within the family context. It is important to note that within India’s particular historical and cultural context, changes brought about by the more organized and large-scale political and social movements (such as marriage age) have to be negotiated by a woman individually within her particular family setting, as was the case of Sunil, who threatened to call the police in order to prevent her parents forcing her to marry before the legal age of 18 years. Parallel to the long history of women’s subjugation is the centuries old history of the Shakti (women’s power) movement. Instead of being fueled negatively by anger, the Shakti movement developed a “distinctive female culture” of positive creative force that is inspirational to women and men (Liddle & Joshi, 1989, p. 5). In some instances, individual resistance transforms into a large-scale movement as in the case of the “Gulabi Gang” (Pink Gang). The foundation of the gang can be traced back to Sampat’s (founder of the gang) parent’s refusal to allow her to go to school. Sampat resisted by trying to teach herself to write on the dirt streets of her native village in one of the most impoverished regions of Uttar Pradesh. Illiterate, poor, married at twelve years, and mother of five, Sampat’s commitment to fighting injustice and women’s subjugation motivated her to start the grassroots vigilante group in 2006, which now has over 10,000 women as members, all of whom wear pink saris and carry long bamboo sticks. The group primarily addresses issues of domestic violence, rape, and forced marriages by pressuring police to register and investigate cases, organizing protests, raising awareness, and providing support to women at risk (Fontanella-Khan, 2013). Both individual and group resistance need to be recognized and supported for their critical role in bringing about meaningful change in women’s roles within the economic, social, and political contexts.

Elizabeth GersabeckComment