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The Strong Voice of Priya's Shakti
Gender-based violence is an undeniably large problem across the world. Unjust and heartbreaking crimes like the 2012 Delhi gang rape have angered women (and men) from many cultures, places, and ways of life.
Active resistance against gender-based violence is slowly becoming a larger part of modern popular culture and art. A strong example of this is Priya's Shakti, an Indian comic book and multimedia art project created by filmmaker Ram Devineni, producer Lina Srivastava, and artist Dan Goldman.
The story is of an average Indian woman named Priya. The Goddess Parvati comes to Priya's aid after the woman survives a gender-based sexual assault. Together Parvati and Priya begin to rid the world of gender-based violence, sexual assault, and rape.
The entire art project and movement centers around the survivor of sexual assault, Priya. It's not only about how she overcame what happened to her, but also how she found a way to change her world with the help of the divine feminine, Parvati. The story is one of the problems modern women face, woven with Hindu mythology and themes.
Priya has spread in popular culture, inspiring a series of murals in Delhi and parts of Mumbai, including the slums of Dharavi. There is also now a trend of taking pictures with a comic book picture of Priya and the caption "I Stand With Priya", showing support for survivors of sexual assault and rape.
"Speak without shame and stand up with love for women's equality, and bring about the change we all want to see," Ram Devineni says on the United Nations Gender Equality Champion page. Priya has been named as one of these champions, for the art project and character's voice and message is very appealing.
According to the Mumbai Boss, Devineni was inspired to create Priya's Shakti on a visit to Delhi during the protests against the 2012 Delhi gang-rape. "We were in Delhi a couple of years ago during the Delhi rape protests. While we were there, Tushar went up to one of the police officers to speak to him, and asked him what he thought of what had happened. He said she probably deserved it."
I think it's the victim-blaming that really brings the need for powerful art projects like Priya's Shakti. Victim-blaming perpetuates rape culture, and the creators of the project knew that and wanted to change that. Devineni interviewed many rape survivors before fully creating Priya's character. She is a representation of the power that all sexual assault survivors can find in themselves.
Priya's Shakti is just the kind of feminist art and movement that we need right now. Priya is an average looking Indian woman, who also has her own immeasurable power. She widens the feminist audience, and shows that anyone and everyone can be a feminist, regardless of their culture, ethnicity, gender, or status.
Priya's Shakti is a powerful example of feminism throughout many different cultures. With the continuation of powerful work towards gender equality, like the work of Priya's Shakti and Malala Yousafzai, we can bring about a better world where feminism is diverse, multicultural, and home to many voices.
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