Three Decembers ago, a brutal gang rape took place in Delhi on the night of the sixteenth. The horrific crime exposed a harsh truth: that it wasn’t just about having strong laws or policies in place to address a crime like rape. It was all the more important to shift attitudes and mindsets about women in the social sphere. The barrage of shaming, the incidents of character assassination and the occurrence of the absolutely unfair pattern of “she asked for it” revealed a deep layer of ingrained rot that had set in, in our system, while we were busy clinging onto the notions of culture and tradition.
Shaking up the status quo and taking the issue up through the vehicle of a language and medium that the masses would comprehend, Priya’s Shakti, an innovative comic book, was brought forth. Perfect for children and for teenagers on the one hand, the book is also an important read for adults, alike. It drives home the message of doing away with gender-based violence and building institutions of gender equality in its place.
Priya’s Shakti came up at a time when it was no longer ignorable, that India needed a cultural shift in terms of attitudes towards the role of women in contemporary social structures. It not only serves the purpose, but walks the extra mile to encourage critical thinking. Priya talks and acts as an independent human should and would. Priya is not tied down by inhibitions. Priya is both, a goddess and an ordinary human being – and there is strength in that because Priya is not encumbered by these purported notions of the “ideal woman”. Priya is brown, which drives home an exceptional message that takes on the notions of “fair is best” in India. Priya’s story is her journey as a survivor of rape, and a catalyst for change. She does not fall, or be encumbered by what happened to her. Priya is not a victim: she is a courageous, and bold woman.
Priya seeks justice. She falls back on the social instruments that have laid claim to being bastions of justice and equality, and have laid claim to being there for its people. But it is not meant to be – for they shame her, or at least, attempt to. She is an afterthought, she is a burden for the cultural institution that thrives on shaming an individual and ascribing a stigma on an individual, for no fault of hers.