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Meet Priya, India’s latest super hero

by Marlies Dekkers
This Wonder Woman wears a sari, rides a ferocious tiger, and is a rape survivor. The message: there is no excuse for sexual violence. Ever.

Priya is an ordinary girl, living in a small village in India with one big dream: to become a teacher. Her father, however, stops her from going to school; she has to stay home and take care of the house. As she grows up, she becomes the victim of increasing sexual violence, until she is raped- and then thrown out of the family home.
“In India’s male-dominated society, it is not the rapist but the rape victim who is often treated with scepticism and has to face ridicule and social ostracism,” Indian-American filmmaker Ram Devineni explained in an interview with BBC News. He came up with the idea for a comic book with a rape survivor as its superhero when he happened to be in as India in 2012 during the protests against the brutal gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old student on a bus in Delhi.

When Devineni asked an officer for his opinion on what happened on the bus, he replied that ‘no good girl walks home at night,’ implying that she probably deserved it, or at least provoked the attack. Devineni realized that to be able to solve this problem, a social change was needed.

And so Priya was born, an ordinary girl who is raped, but who fights back against sexual violence with the help of the goddess Parvati – and a tiger. The title of the comic is ‘Priya’s Shakti’ – Shakti meaning “the female principle of divine energy”– and the message is that there is no excuse to justify sexual violence like blame the clothes women wear, what time they go out or the places they go to.
I downloaded the book myself, and besides containing a strong social message, it’s also simply beautiful. (the illustrations are by graphic novel artist Dan Goldman) It can be read in 15 minutes, but resonates with you much longer. One of the things I like is that Priya is not a lightskinned Bollywood vamp but an ordinary girl who turns a tragedy into an important lesson for the world. I think this amazing project does exactly the same.

Get your own free digital copy of the comic here: priyashakti.com If you download the free Blippar app you can see the comic come to life! Want to show colour? Take a picture of yourself with Priya like my head office team did and post it on your favorite social media channel, #standwithpriya

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