With better training vis-à-vis reporting and journalism, Southasia has seen significant changes in the sensitivities around sexual abuse and rape in various media houses and editorial rooms in the written form. However, imagery and illustrations accompanying these reports continue to regurgitate the same themes of victimisation and a lack of agency of women victim-survivors. Conversely, as criticism for this kind of portrayal gained momentum in the past couple of decades, the pendulum seems to have has swung to the other side with images of women in protests, rallies, or on the streets, demonstrating their strength, shouting slogans and/or demanding change. While these kind of images and photographs aren’t as problematic as the ones before them, they continue to portray and place women and their fight against sexual violence as only conceputalised within two stereotypical themes: the oppressed or the powerful, the voiceless or the vocal, the meek victim or the strong survivor. There is no place for the grey, the complex, the sometimes contradictory and often times messy topic of sexual violence and justice seeking.
Through the project, Challenging Visual Depiction of Women and Sexual Violence in Media in Southasia, we have tried to explore all the nuances that exist in between these two stereotypical extremes. Over the past year, the Hri Institute has collaborated with Nepali and Indian illustrators, artists, filmmakers and photographers to conceptualise alternative themes and depictions of sexual violence and violence against women that challenges the prevalent problematic imagery. We also attempt to explore the many complex layers of how survivors come to terms with sexual violence. Organically, over a few months, themes of care, healing, community, agency and autonomy became clear with the works of the artists that we engaged.
Below, you will find illustrations and photographs of how Southasian artists want women to be depicted and how they have conceptualised themes of healing, community, autonomy and justice beyond the standard imagery of victimisation. All are welcome to use the images below in their reporting; we hope that this image bank continues to grow organically as we continue to work with more artists and photographers throughout the region.
The images here can be reproduced free of cost, but credit to the artists is mandatory. Please contact us for further details. For use of the images and to download a high-res copy, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We would like to thank the following artists for their contribution Alina Chhantel, Sheelesha Rajbhandari, Shaili Malla, Prakash Ranjit, Pallavi Payal, Sapana Sanjeevani, Sara Toinch, Laxmi Gurung, Mrigaja Bajracharya, Priyanka Maharjan, Samana Rai.