These Vigilante Women Are Taking the Fight to Rapists in India

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, a woman is raped every 20 minutes in India. This fact should not only shock and alarm people, but make them angry. These are wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, cousins, and friends — but, most importantly, they are innocent women who do not deserve to be violated in any way. Women in India are forced to live with this statistic, and to live in fear of stigmatization by their society — and, often, their family and friends — if they report such crimes. In response, Some women in India have have stood up to fight, vigilante-style, for the justice that their country denies them.

In an article published July 20, USA Today explores a small women’s movement in New Delhi called the Red Brigade, which formed in 2011. The Red Brigade has more than 100 members, who range in age from 11 to 25. It focuses not only on self-defense classes for young women, but also on fighting for the justice that women deserve. If the group witnesses violence or harassment against women, “First we warn the man to desist from harassing women,” says Jyoti Singh, a two-year member of the Red Brigade. “If it doesn’t stop, we pay a visit to the man and if he still persists, we then publicly humiliate him.”

USA Today notes that law enforcement will sometimes support the Red Brigade, but is concerned that the organization will “go too far.” Another member of the Red Brigade, Usha Vishvakarma, tells a different story about law enforcement’s so-called support: “Three years ago, one of my colleagues tried to rape me, and when I went to the police to file a complaint, I was told not to overreact and to keep quiet about it.” It is evident from the horrifying statistics facing women in India that law enforcement is not doing nearly enough to help those suffering, or to stop those who are committing the crimes.

The Red Brigade is just one example of women rising up for justice. The Gulabi Gang (the Pink Gang) is a group that has gained much more national attention. Its notoriety is due to the fact that it is the largest female vigilante group in the world, and also to the physical beatings the group administers to abusive men, and even to police officers who do not report cases of domestic violence or rape. Interviewed by the New York Times, Sampath Pal Devi, the leader of the Gulabi Gang, stated, “This country is ruled by men ... No use asking them for help. We women must fight our own battles ourselves.”

The Daily Beast quoted Sampath Pal as saying, “We don’t like using violence, but sometimes that’s the only way people listen.” Sampath Pal and the Gulabi Gang take on more than abusive men and police officers; they often take on corrupt politicians, as well. Although these women fight for a cause that needs fighting for, some believe violence is never the answer. However, vigilantism, and the violence that often accompanies it, have a purpose in this world.

Merriam-Webster defines "vigilante" as, “a member of a volunteer committee organized to suppress and punish crime summarily (as when the processes of law are viewed as inadequate).” As Sampath Pal stated, the Gulabi Gang (and other groups like it) rejoice in bringing justice to those who need it, not in the violence they sometimes use. If a person commits a crime, shouldn’t they be punished? If law enforcement does not punish the criminal, should their crime just disappear? The first answer is yes, and the second answer is no.

The vigilantism by these brave women in India is justified because their society encourages victims to “keep quiet.” A woman in India is raped every 20 minutes. These women are not respected or protected by the law, and as a result, they have every right to fight for the justice that they would not be granted otherwise.