The Visceral Appeal of Vigilantism in Seemingly Hopeless Situations

Gulabi Gang


You live in a seemingly hopeless place. 90% of the rapes in India occur among your caste group. The police force in your area has been linked repeatedly to organized crime.  A majority of men in your area of the world say they have committed sexual violence against their wives.

Anyone hearing about this scenario will be outraged; but how do you feel about supporting what has become a seemingly successful “solution”? But the solution is both violent and intimidating.  It is speaking to the men in the community in a language they understand. Seeing a small sea of pink-saris headed in your direction, accompanied by dozens of bamboo lathis (an 8-10 foot pole) that the women have been trained to use, most men are, shall we say, “disincentivized” to treat women as just another object in a male world.

Exciting stuff. Then the old questions comes back to haunt us. What is the most effective stimulus for long-run change? Martin Luther King or Malcolm X? Hard or soft power? To what extent is the injustice so ossified that nothing but violence will shock it into change? Is due process something relevant only after fair judicial institutions are in place. (I doubt that the women are careful about the rights of the accused.) If I am correct, is the situation so starkly horrible that due process should be postponed?

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