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I Need Me A Hot Pink Sari

Sampat Pal Devi with members of her Gulabi Gang

A rose is a rose is a rose.

Slate | Wear a Pink Sari and Carry a Big Stick

The founder of the gulabis is the fearless Sampat Pal Devi, 40, who was married off at the age of 12 to an ice-cream vendor and had the first of her five children at 15. The gulabis, whose members say they are a “gang for justice,” started in 2006 as a sisterhood of sorts that looked out for victims of domestic abuse, a problem the United Nations estimates affects two in three married Indian women. Named after their hot-pink sari uniforms, the gang paid visits to abusive husbands and demanded they stop the beatings. When obstinate men refused to listen, the gulabis would return with large bamboo sticks called laathis and “persuade” them to change their ways. “When I go around with a stick, it’s to make men fear me. I don’t always use it, but it helps change the mind of men who think they are more powerful than me” says Pal. She has assumed the rank of commander in chief and has appointed district commanders across seven districts in Bundelkhand to help coordinate the gang’s efforts.

Pal’s group now has more than 20,000 members, and the number is growing. Making her way from one far-flung village to another on an old rusty bicycle, she holds daily gatherings under shady banyan trees, near makeshift tea-stalls selling the sweet Indian drink chai and other popular village hangouts to discuss local problems and attract new recruits.

Sisters are doing it for themselves. The Indian criminal justice system isn’t going to stand up for its women and, for the hundreds of languages spoken in India, everyone understands Physical Intimidation. Sad, but true.

7 comments… add one
  • Anita Cage July 21, 2010, 3:27 PM

    I have loved the pink sari women since I first read about them. Sometimes, I think we all need a pink sari to work for the plight of far too many of our sisters, no matter what country we live in. When times get bad, DV increases while support decreases. And guess where times are getting bad right now?

    • Maitri July 21, 2010, 3:36 PM


      Karen Gadbois reminded me of this in June and my heart has bled for the women of Louisiana’s coastal parishes since. Do you know of any women’s shelters or advocacy groups in the area that are worth donating to?

  • alli July 21, 2010, 3:39 PM


    Maitri – the New Orleans Family Justice Center, on Julia Street in NOLA.

  • Cousin Pat from Georgia July 21, 2010, 4:09 PM

    Good on ’em. Having been at the wrong end of a bamboo stick a time or three, they do command respect.

  • liprap July 21, 2010, 6:45 PM

    What, you don’t have a pink sari? You MUST get with it…I guess the HinJew version would be a pink jacket over a pink sarong…

    • Maitri July 22, 2010, 8:38 AM

      Hot pink lipstick is one thing. Hot pink clothes? Eh, not so much. A hot pink solidarity sari? Sign me up.

  • Marcy S July 21, 2010, 9:00 PM

    Hello Maitri! I saw you standing up for the sisters on my blog post about this very subject–thank you! Keep the sisterhood faith!

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