NEW DELHI, INDIA: In India’s male dominated society, it is not the rapist, but the rape victim who often faces ridicule, social ostracism and skepticism. To focus attention on the widespread problem of sexual violence, a new comic book was launched in India, whose “superhero” is a female rape victim, BBC reported.
‘Priya’s Shakti’, which was inspired by Hindu mythological tales, tells the story of Priya, a young woman and gang-rape survivor, and Goddess Parvati as they fight against gender crimes in India.
One of the creators of the comic, Ram Devineni, told the BBC that the idea for the comic came to him after the brutal gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old student on a bus sparked outrage in Delhi, in December 2012.
Every 21 minutes, a rape is reported in India and the 2012 gang rape was seen as a game-changer. The brutality of the six men led to days of protests and forced the government to introduce tougher anti-rape laws, including the death penalty for particularly severe sex crimes.
“I was in Delhi at the time when the protests broke out and I was involved in some of them,” he said. “I was talking to a police officer when he said something that I found very surprising. He said ‘no good girl walks alone at night.'”
Devineni realised that rape and sexual violence in India is more of a cultural issues and was highly influenced by patriarchal and misogynist perceptions.
“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,” said Devineni.
The comic aims to reflect harsh reality as main character Priya tells her parents about her rape for which she was immediately blamed and banished her from the home.
Priya is representative of a generic Indian woman and her aspirations, said Devineni, adding that “she is like every boy or girl who wants to live his or her dreams. But those dreams are quashed after her rape.”
In the book, with some help from Shiva and Parvati – Hinduism’s most powerful divine couple – Priya manages to turn her tragedy into an opportunity.
In the end, she rides back into the town on the back of a tiger and vanquishes her adversaries.
Mythology was chosen to put his point across because Hinduism is India’s majority religion, Devineni explained.
He convinced street artists and Bollywood poster painters to create paintings with “augmented reality features” in Mumbai’s biggest slum area Dharavi. The murals allow people to see special animation and images pop out when they are scanned with their smart phones.
Free digital copies of the comic can be downloaded anywhere in the world and printed copies in Hindi and English will also be available soon.
“Our target audiences are children starting from 10-12 years to young adults,” Devineni had said, adding that the project aimed to start a conversation with the youth at a very critical age in their lives.