One of India’s news channels recently showeda video of a young woman beating a man who attempted to rape her. Shockingly, the incident took place in front of a police station.
The 23-year-old nurse could not contain her rage and who could blame her.Most people could sympathize with the desperation and hopelessness she must have felt knowing that police would turn a blind eye even if she reported it. She therefore decided to take matters into her own hands.
She’s not the only one in doubting the law enforcement and justice systemin her own country.
No amount of protests and furycan compensate or even change (at least for a long time to come) their feeling of hopelessness in a society that blamesthe victim and just about everything else rather than the culprit himself.
Even though the rapists of a much hyped rape case have just been sentenced to death in India, the fact that one of the defense lawyers in the case boldly stated that he would have burned her daughter alive had she been having premarital sex and moving around at night with her boyfriend speaks volume about where the law and it’s defenders stand on the issue.
Self Help and Self Defense
People think that they can no longer put their safety in the authorities’ hands. So they are increasingly taking things their own. There has been a surge in demand for learning self-defense and personal protective training amongst women in India especially in Delhi and Mumbai and the sales of pepper sprays and rape alarms as well as weapons have gone up- So has the demand for special taxi service run by women only for female passengers.
Pink Sari Gang or the Gulabi Gang
The Pink Sari Gangwas started by Sampat Pal Davi. She was denied the opportunity to go to school because of her gender and learned to read and write by her own struggles.
Once, seeing a man beat his wife and failing to stop him after repeated demands to do so, she gathered a few women from hervillage; armed them with long bamboo sticks and they beat him till he promised to repent.
Later, realizing that there is only safety in numbers and it is the women themselves who have to do something, she sort of officiated the group by getting them to dress in pink and to take the protection of women, children and the down trodden in their own hands.
Amazingly the Pink Sari Gang members have began to run and win municipal elections in order to try to make institutional change in local communities to improve the conditions for women and the poor.
The Red Brigade
Another group of women failing to find support and protection gathered under the banner of The Red Brigade.
Dressed in bright red and black the group is led by 25-year-old Usha Vishwakarma who founded the group two years ago when many of her friends were forced to give up their studies or stop going out for fear of being assaulted.
In two years’ time the group has expanded from 15 to over 100.
In one of her interviews, Usha recounted her own experiences, “Some years back, an 11-yearold girl I gave lessons to was raped by her uncle. A few months after the incident, one of my colleagues attempted to rape me. I fought back and managed to escape. It took a year to recover from the incident but I realized that every girl has the strength to protect herself.”
She also feels that,“It is the woman who bears the brunt in every case of sexual harassment. No one comes to her rescue and she gets hardly any help from administration or police.”
Unfortunately many women across India share her feelings.
Blank Noise is a community art project seeking to confront street harassment in India. It was started by Jasmeen Patheja in August 2003 as a student project but has spread in far flung areas now.
The Pink Chaddi Campaign
The Pink Chaddicampaignis one of the best Indian examples of how a grassroots community can come together, collaborate and take collective action with the help social media. They have been pretty active for quite a few years now. It is groups like these that really set precedence for the modern day groups fighting violence against women, especially street crimes.