In 2012 a 23-year-old girl was gang-raped and murdered on a moving bus in Delhi, India. This tragic and horrifying event made India erupt in outrage. People protested and demanded that the government introduce tougher anti-rape laws and more severe punishment for sex crimes. This powerful anti-rape and anti-violence movement inspired Ram Devineni, an Indian-American filmmaker, to create the comic book, “Priya’s Shakti.” Priya is a rape survivor and the heroine of the comic. With the help of Goddess Parvati, the goddess of love, fertility and devotion, Priya fights gender-based sexual violence around the world. We absolutely love how Devineni is using his art and voice to empower women and bring awareness. In an interview with BBC News Devineni says, “I spoke to some gang-rape survivors and they said they were discouraged by their families and communities to seek justice, they were also threatened by the rapists and their families. Even the police didn’t take them seriously.” In India one rape is reported every 16 minutes, that means almost 100 rapes a day.
Indian rape culture is strong, and victims, who are mostly women, are marginalized even further. We are hopeful that Priya’s story could help inspire the already powerful anti-rape movement to topple oppressive cultural norms, and also catalyze people to advocate for laws that protect rape victims and women. Another amazing aspect of this project: comic creator Devineni believes that it is imperative for young girls and boys to be included in the conversation about these issues and targets an audience of children between 10 and 12 years old. We firmly agree with Devineni: youth must be engaged in gender and reproductive and sexual health issues. And that can be challenging, and even taboo. This comic demonstrates a solution to that challenge. It’s a cool, colorful, artistic and age friendly way to talk about gender violence and the underlying issues that drive oppression in India. Finally, this comic is inspired by Hindu mythology; a controversial but also very smart and inclusive move. By including Hindu mythology Devineni honors the old paradigm while simultaneously shifting it. We are beyond thrilled to share this comic and we hope it reaches people, especially young people, all over the world!