From Punishing Wife-Beaters To Standing Up Against Authority Figures, 50 Y.O. Ghisi Devi Is The Real Hero
- IWB Post
- June 12, 2018
When it comes to pinpointing the places in India rife with patriarchal violence and gender disparity, Rajasthan tops the list. And fighting this very imbalance in the state’s Doon village is 50-year-old Ghisi Devi. From dealing with wife-beaters, harassers to authority figures, she solves disputes of her neighbors.
Married at the age of 14, Devi had been a victim of domestic violence from an alcoholic husband and demands of dowry from her hostile in-laws who eyed her parent’s property after Devi’s only brother went missing. They started hitting her after she gave birth to three girls in a row. “Once they beat me, I went back to my parents home and didn’t return for 10 years.”
She started working as a housemaid and gave the leftover food and clothes given by her employer to her daughters. She soon joined women’s commune, which led her to become aware of her rights.
She runs the ‘Doon Jamata’ in her village which is a group of 11 women from the area and the biggest problem they face is dealing with drunk men who refuse to understand. “First, we make them understand through words—if it doesn’t work, we raise our sticks,” she said.
“Women have now grown wiser and violence is only used as a last resort. If a man tries to create hindrance in our way, we don our uniforms, put our ID cards and take out our canes,” said Devi, “Then we don’t shy away from beating the hell out of that person.”
“I am now so bold that I help other women get pension, getting toilets built for them or helping disabled people in my village get a free bus pass,” she said. “Our community also fights against teachers’ absenteeism, getting teachers suspended by raising it up with school authorities.”
In fact, her heroic efforts led to a local drug peddler shutting down his shop. A group of six kids are her eyes and ears, who notify her as soon as they spot someone behaving suspiciously.
Apart from the prevailing issue of patriarchy in the village, caste-related disputes is another major problem. Devi shares how she broke the pots of some ‘upper caste’ women who created a scene when a group of Dalits came to fill water from “upper caste taps” and told them “how untouchability is a social evil.”
She also went against the people of her caste and even her village sarpanch when a local property dispute arose. “He threatened that he would get me out of Dooni using his connections in the state government. I dared him to even touch me, let alone forcing me out of my village.”
“If anyone is trying to suppress women or is violent, we interfere. People threaten me of murder and getting kidnapped, but I don’t care,” she said.