Changing the Views of the People: A Review of Priya’s Shakti

I was alerted to the existence of this comic last week when an NPR article about it cropped up on my newsfeed. Priya’s Shakti is about a young woman in India who is gang raped. The crime goes unpunished, and she is even blamed for what happened by her family and society. The god Shiva is angered by this turn of events and wants to destroy humanity as punishment, but his wife Parvati thinks that humanity is capable of change. She gives Priya the power and confidence to go out into the world to fight against sexual violence.

The comic’s creator Ram Devineni said he was inspired to create the story after interviewing people in his home country about their views on a gang rape that occurred in 2012 and resulted in the victim’s death. The event started a movement throughout India (across all of its castes and classes) that opposed sexual violence, but Devineni still found that many held an attitude of victim blaming. He created Priya’s Shakti as a way to create a narrative against that sort of cultural viewpoint.

As he says in the interview with NPR, the comic is targeted towards children, so it is a very quick read and fairly didactic. There isn’t a lot in the way of character development or plot, and the story is essentially narrated to the reader. However, I think for its target audience it is appropriate. I also really like how Devineni portrayed the gods themselves as angered by rape and rape culture, even if they have different ways of responding to it. I thought having the traditional deities being shown as supporting this cause was a nice touch.

If you want to read the comic, you can download it for free for Kindle or any other e-book format. However, I do have to say, since I’m a hipster and use a Nook, that the comic didn’t format quite right for me. Perhaps on the Kindle or on a more traditional tablet it works better.

While the event that inspired Priya’s Shakti may have taken place in India, sexual violence, abuse, and rape happen all over the world. I think this is the type of story that can provide a lot of insight and inspiration across cultures, and I think it is a very important sort of story to tell, especially to young people.

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