Imagine a night out with your friends.
You get dressed up, meet at your favorite bar, and order a round of cocktails. Maybe you order a second round, or a third. You drink, talk, dance.
If you were a woman living in India you wouldn’t have to imagine it – that would be your reality.
Early this month in Mangalore, India, a university town in the southern state of Karnataka, a group of women were attacked by the Sri Ram Sena, the Army of Ram, a Hindu god, for drinking and dancing with men in a local pub. Having deemed their behavior “un-Indian” the group justified the unprovoked attack. Eventually more than 10 members of the group were arrested and jailed, only to be shortly released on bail after about a week.
Women around the country were outraged by the attack and decided it was high time for some action. The “Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women” was soon created with an accompanying group on Facebook that has elicited over 50,000 group members from around the world to date.
The group’s first call to action was the “Pink Chaddi Campaign” which called on women around the world to send pink chaddis (underwear) to the Sri Ram Sena on Valentine’s Day. Over 40,000 pink chaddis flooded their offices that day as a non-violent protest against the attacks. As part of the campaign women were also encouraged to stop by their local bar to toast Indian women and take a picture which will also be used in another form of protest (details yet to be released). Touché ladies.
Thanks to the endless possibilities of the internet and social networking the “Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women” has ignited a movement to end violence against women in India that has taken off. With a growing Facebook group (that was unfortunately recently hacked into and tampered with but is up and running again) and popular blog with nearly 800 followers, there is a ripe opportunity to raise awareness of the need to challenge India’s cultural landscape that continues to pigeonhole women in traditional and conservative roles.
For these women having the right to socialize with men, drink alcohol, or God forbid, dance goes beyond these social customs. It is about accepting a new generation of Indian women that are stepping out of the deeply-rooted patriarchal values of Indian’s past without harassment or violence. Until groups like the Sri Ram Sena move past these old social boundaries, women will continue to suffer.
Following the pub attack in Mangalore, a Hindu girl from the same town who had been harassed by right-wingers for talking to a Muslim boy committed suicide.
In New Delhi, one of the biggest cities in India, cases of rape and molestation for the last decade have reached a record high.
Enough is enough. The time has come for the world – women and men – to unite in solidarity to protest violence against women in Indian – even if it’s one pink chaddi at a time.
UPDATE: 4 more women have been attacked in the last 2 days in Banglore, India. The attacks took place in the broad daylight with witnesses who did nothing to intervene or help the victims!
At this time it is unclear whether these attacks can be linked to the Sri Ram Sena and the pub attack early this month. What is clear is that immediate action is needed to combat this violence and protect the women of India now.
Photo by Ana Ulin (http://anaulin.org) used under a Creative Commons license.