(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 29 September 2012)
There are reports of groups of women in Northern India that visit abusive husbands and beat them up with bamboo sticks unless they stop abusing their wives. After Guyana has yet another brutal murder of a woman and her two children by her partner, the formation of such a group sounds refreshing.
In India, much like Guyana, it is difficult to get law enforcement to take domestic violence seriously. So these women, who are called “The Gulabi Gang” (translated as ‘pink gang’ from Hindi) because of the pink saris worn by its members, took it upon themselves to protect the women.
Sampat Pal, a mother of five and former government health worker (and a former child bride) formed the group in 2006. The group is made up of women vigilantes and activists originally from Banda in Bundelkhand district, Uttar Pradesh, India, but reported to be active across North India as of 2010.
In 2008, they even stormed an electricity office in Banda district and forced officials to turn back on the power they had cut in order to extract bribes. They have also stopped child marriages and protested dowry and female illiteracy. This is one ‘Badass Sisterhood,’ as it has become known on the Internet where this story has been viral for months now.
After reading about the woman who was murdered this past week by her partner, I then read this quote on Facebook, “A woman needs a man to protect her like a daughter, love her like a wife and respect her like his mother.” I know the woman who posted this quote thought it wise, but I was upset by it.
Why does a woman need to be protected? So that men do not hurt her, right? Which means we are expecting men to protect us from men. What, then, happens when those men who are to be protectors become the ones from whom women need to be protected? We know what happens. Women die.
This logic was quite evident even to Susan B. Anthony who lived in a time of so-called gentlemen when she said, “I declare to you that woman must not depend upon the protection of man, but must be taught to protect herself, and there I take my stand.”
Can women escape from men? Tradition holds that women need to be protected, so they must have a man in their lives. However, as reality has sadly proven time and again, it is from those very men that women need the most protection. As a result, if men do not “protect” women, and law enforcement does not protect women, are women to just cower in the corner and wait to be demeaned, raped, beaten and to eventually die at the hands of the man who says he loves her?
Hell, no! The Pink Sari women in India have found the answer. They have taken it upon themselves to protect the women and children. Roseanne Barr once said, “The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it.” The women of the Pink Saris have learned this lesson, they have taken control of the situation and they now have the power women should have had all along.
Sampat Pal named the group the Pink Saris Gang to show, “’Pink’ for women, ‘Gang’ for not being submissive!” (You can find out more about the Pink Saris at http://www.gulabigang.org) This is not a woman to mess with. I wish all women would come to a point where they realise how important it is to protect themselves and to stop relying on a man to protect them.
I would love to see a group like this rise up in Guyana to stop the onslaught of violence and murders against the women. There are now classes that teach women self-defence lessons using martial arts. I encourage women to sign up for these classes and start fighting back against those who would rape, beat and murder them.
A new survey released in the U.S, entitled The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/NISVS/index.html) details the extent and effects of male violence against women:
· More than half (51.1%) of female victims of rape reported being raped by an intimate partner and 40.8% by an acquaintance.
· Across all types of violence, the majority of female victims reported that their perpetrators were male. Male rape victims and male victims of non-contact unwanted sexual experiences reported predominantly male perpetrators.
· For female rape victims, 98.1% reported only male perpetrators. Additionally, 92.5% of female victims of sexual violence other than rape reported only male perpetrators. For male victims, the sex of the perpetrator varied by the type of sexual violence experienced. The majority of male rape victims (93.3%) reported only male perpetrators.
The violence against women will not stop until women make it stop. I am not suggesting that women become the violent creatures that some men have become. However, I am saying that it is time for women to take a stand and put an end to the violence against women ourselves. It is time to fight back.
I read this statement on a feminist blog recently, “Women are at most danger from the men nearest and dearest to them. Female children are sexually abused by family members, usually a father, uncle or brother. Women are more likely to be murdered by their husband than by an unknown man, and men annihilate their families with frightening regularity. Similarly, if a male friend offers to walk a woman home ‘to protect her,’ she is more likely to be raped by him than a passerby.”
It is time to put aside all that nonsense about being “lady-like” and “sweet” women and pick up some bamboo sticks to fight off that man who is beating that Sister who lives next door. It is time to be brave and strong. It is time to be badass women. It is time to fight for our lives, Sisters!