Human trafficking is big business. The International Labour Organization estimated in 2016 that, at any given time, there are 40.3 million people being held in some form of modern slavery. Young women and girls are most commonly targeted and many of them are forced into prostitution. Even if they manage to escape, they must then face the enormous challenge of reintegrating into society.

India is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman due to a high risk of sexual violence. According to government figures, more than 32,000 rape cases were reported in 2017 alone. This week, in the city of Hyderabad, 27 year-old veterinarian Priyanka Reddy was gang-raped, smothered to death and her body burned by four young men. The rape sparked widespread outrage and protest and evoked memories of the brutal gang rape and murder of a young woman on a bus in Delhi that prompted global anger in 2012.

It is cases like Reddy’s that inspire Ram Devineni’s comic book series Priya Shakti. In the latest installment, Priya and the Lost Girls, Priya, India’s first woman superhero and rape survivor, returns to tackle sex trafficking. In the graphic novel Priya comes home to discover all the young women, including her sister, have disappeared in her rural village in India. She learns they were taken to an underground brothel city called Rahu ruled by a demon who gets his power through fear and the entrapment of women.

The comic addresses the stigma around sex trafficking and was launched during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, an international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls. As in previous editions, Devineni and co-writer Dipti Mehta use an accompanying augmented reality app and mythical characters rooted in Hindu culture to shed light on the harsh realities of trafficking.

On this episode of The Stream, we’ll look at how the comic is challenging systems of patriarchy that perpetuate violence against women.


On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:


Dipti Mehta, @diptimehta
Co-writer of chapter three, “Priya and the Lost Girls”


Ruchira Gupta, @Ruchiragupta
Founder of Apne Aap


Shandra Woworuntu, @shandraVoH
Survivor of human trafficking


Read more: 

India vet rape and murder: Fast-track court to try accused – Al Jazeera English 
India’s First Female Superhero Takes On Sex Trafficking – Huffington Post
Opinion | An augmented reality comic book that’s dead serious – Mint