Sunday, 26 December 2010

Pink Power

Top prize for Christmas Day TV has to go to 'Pink Saris', part of the More 4 India week. Set in Uttar Pradesh, Northern India, it is an absorbing documentary about the 'Pink Gang'; so-called 'untouchable' Indian women refusing to abide by the caste system.

The film focuses on the Pink Gang leader, Sampat Pal, as she goes about her work. Married at 12, she was forced out of her village for disobeying her inlaws. Disowned by her family, Sampat found herself on the streets, forced to raise her young children alone. It is from her own suffering that her empathy for other women in similar situations comes from. She combines a big heart with boundless courage and determination to campaign on behalf of the women who arrive at her door, often suicidal from domestic violence and rape.

Whether it is the police, or a violent husband (whose jaw drops at the mouthful of abuse heaped on him) or a rapist father-in-law, Sampat is utterly fearless as she confronts abusive men. She is determined that they feel the force of the law for inflicting violence on women and driven by the belief that women have the right to marry who they want.

The documentary flits from scenes that are by turn funny, inspiring and heart breaking. The suffering of the women would soften the hardest male heart and, understandably, decades of dealing with it has exacted a toll on Sampat and her relationship. Yet it is from her own experiences, and sense of indignation at the injustice of the suffering of others, that she finds the strength to go on. In doing so, she inspires and empowers others. The hope in the film lies in womens ability to resist, struggle and survive. When the caste system is finally confined to history's dump where it belongs, it will be because of the struggles of Sampat Pal, and thousands of women like her.

Well done Channel 4 for a remarkable piece of television.