Meet India's new comic superhero: Priya the rape survivor

by Radhika Sanghani - 09/12/14, 10:04 AM
Priya, the rape survivor, sitting on top of a tiger in the comic.

Priya, the rape survivor, sitting on top of a tiger in the comic.

A new Indian comic book has a female rape survivor as its 'superhero' who fights gender-based sexual violence around the world.

The comic, Priya's Shakti, tells the story of rape survivor Priya who fights against the patriarchy and misogyny alongside the Goddess Parvati.

It was inspired by the highly-publicised gang rape of a 23-year-old student on a bus in New Delhi in December 2012, who later died.

A scene from the comic.
A scene from the comic.

The website, where the comic can be dowloaded for free, states: "The project centres on the Goddess Parvati and Priya, a mortal woman devotee and survivor of rape and is rooted in ancient matriarchal traditions that have been displaced in modern representations of Hindu culture.

"It creates an alternative narrative and voice against [gender-based violence] in popular culture through the Hindu mythological canon."

The storyline focuses on Priya, who experiences a brutal rape and the social stigma that can result from it in India.

The Goddess Parvati is horrified by her story, and inspires Priya to break her silence.

Filmmaker Ram Devineni, who created the comic, said: "Talking with several rape survivors, I realised how difficult it was for them to get justice.

"Often, they do not report crimes out of fear for their lives, or to avoid the backlash they may face from their family, authorities, and community.

"The burden of shame is placed on the victim and not the perpetrators.

"Priya's Shakti highlights the threat of sexual harassment and violence that women face on a daily basis unless deeply rooted patriarchal norms are challenged. Priya is a new hero for a modern India."

He told Telegraph Wonder Women that he was in Delhi when the gang rape happened and was horrified not just by the act, but by "the indifference exhibited by government authorities at every level."

He said: "I knew than that the problem of sexual violence in India was not a legal issue; rather it was a cultural problem.

"Deep-rooted patriarchal views needed to be challenged. We want to challenge patriarchal views and also create empathy for rape survivors."

The first comic book shows Priya's family banishing her from their home when she tells them about her rape. They react by saying: "Why were you out by yourself?" and "You must have provoked them."

The Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva – Hinduism's most powerful divine couple – then help her gain strength. She rides into the town on a tiger and gains support.

Artists in Mumbai are now creating murals of the comic book, which is aimed at children as young as 10.

Dan Goldman, the comic's artist, said: "Stories like Priya's are in the news often these days, not just in India but in all nations and online.

"With Priya's Shakti came the chance to put a symbolic face to this issue and enlighten all genders about sexual violence, and there's no format better suited to this than the instantly accessible medium of comics."

Telegraph, London

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