Fighting Back: Support Our Indian Sisters
Unfortunately, India has been frequently featured in international headlines lately due to the government’s inability, or unwillingness, to protect its female citizens. Sexual attacks on women and girls are on the rise, and even if the perpetrators are arrested and tried, the justice system systemically fails to successfully prosecute and punish rapists. This impotence is a direct result of the indifference of high-level officials towards the well-being and safety of women and girls. More often than not, the women and children themselves are blamed for provoking the violence simply by existing, as if men were incapable of controlling themselves around anyone with breasts and a uterus. They view women as objects, rather than people.
Gangs of women have been organizing across India to directly combat sexual predation and defend the rights of India’s female citizens. One of the first such gangs to organize is called the Pink Gang, or the Gulabi Gang. This group was founded by Sampat Pal Devi in 2006 to combat the growing tide of sexual violence in Northern India. The Gulabi Gang campaigns for women by confronting abusive male authorities and persuading them to see reason. Just in case the men aren’t interested in listening, all members of the Gulabi Gang carry long bamboo sticks, and know how to use them. Their success has inspired other women across India to follow their example.
The Red Brigade is Lucknow’s answer to the growing epidemic of violence against women. With the help of trained martial artists, Usha Vishwakarma and her comrades turn the tables on their male aggressors. Like the Gulabi Gang, the Red Brigade starts by attempting to reason with male aggressors. If that is not enough, they physically confront the abuser, using martial arts techniques and solidarity to hoist him into the air and beat him with sandals and open fists. While the man is left unharmed, he is shamed and will likely think twice about harassing a woman again.
This new female revolution in India is focused on sustainable culture change. The Gulabi Gang aims to combat all forms of inequality for women, including the tradition of child marriage. By championing women’s rights in rural areas of India, they hope to give other women and young girls the confidence to stand up for themselves and join the fight to end sexual violence for good. Their practices are working, as younger and younger women across India are taking a stand for justice. Many of the Red Brigade’s members are teenagers. Vishwakarma herself is only twenty-five. The courage that they show comes from within, from refusing to give in to fear and intimidation, and from anger at seeing their classmates raped, their countrywomen murdered.
The sad fact is that each girl or woman who is murdered or cowed into silence is one less person, one less mind, one less spirit capable of great things. Who knows how many scientists, surgeons, artists, and philosophers we have lost already to this war against women? This fight belongs to all of us. I, myself, have heard the same misogynist rationality which is such a problem in India repeated among Neanderthal good ol’ boys in my neighborhood: Look at her. She must be asking for it. I say it’s time for women to unite and rise up against this backwards thinking, and I’m not the only one. Show your support by donating directly to one of the organizations I have mentioned, or one of your own choosing. Raise awareness. Show our attackers that we are not so easily intimidated. India’s women are fighting back. Let’s join them.