Gender is a tricky subject to talk about in India, yet it is one of the most important conversations we can have. After all, how can a nation progress if half its population isn’t provided the same opportunities or afforded the same treatment as the other half? Feminism and other gender-related topics have been part of the conversation in India for some time now, but it mostly in academic circles or in limited social settings. That is, until the rise of the internet and social media. Today, several online avenues exist to give a certain point-of-view a platform and a lot of bright, young people have taken advantage of this opportunity.

From short films and videos to poetry and art, there’s all sorts of great creative talent out there just waiting to be discovered. However, our favourite medium is the humble comic. Within the brightly-coloured panels and witty lines lies proof of just how subversive humour can be when it comes to delivering a message that matters. It’s a recent development, but we already have quite a few Indian artists working on gender-based comic strips. These are Que’s favourites:

Kalmuhi

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When Pranjali Dubey, a 21-year-old artist from Ahmedabad, first started uploading a few of her doodles and comics to her social media profiles, she faced some backlash for what was seen as being “too bold.” This only spurred her on to set up a separate social media profile for her comics and she chose to call it Kalmuhi, which is her way of taking the power back from a derogatory word that was used to shame women who society perceived as troublesome.

Sanitary Panels

Since starting out in May 2014 as a response to the IT Act Section 66A, Rachita Taneja’s Sanitary Panels has grown to become one of the most popular gendered comics in the country. The artist uses a simple stick figure style to comment on issues ranging from gender discrimination and victim shaming to current affairs and politics. We’re excited to see what’s next for one of India’s longest-running gendered comics, now that Section 66A has been scrapped. One thing’s for sure – it won’t be dull.

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Brown Paperbag

With over 60 comics behind him, 21-year-old Sailesh Gopalan’s hilarious tales of Kabir, a teenager who’s figuring out the nuances of the Indian experience, continue to engage us with their sharp wit and poignant insights. But the character we love most is his feisty little sister, Ananya, whose appearances almost always serve to highlight the hypocrisy of Indian society when it comes to gender issues – be it within the confines of home or out there in public.

Artwhoring

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This one might seem like cheating because it isn’t strictly a comic strip, but teenage prodigy Priyanka Paul’s Artwhoring is an important artistic voice on gender issues and what it means to be a woman in India today. After breaking out with her Goddesses series last year, the artist has gone from strength to strength and her work has been featured in almost every major publication out there. And she’s multi-talented as well – most posts are accompanied by an original poem or verse – which is phenomenal for someone who is just 18 years old.

Custom Cuts

So, what happens when two feminists from different cities decide to collaborate on a project? A whole load of awesome, that’s what! Pia Alize Hararika and Malathi Jogi – the Delhi-based illustrator and Bombay-based writer behind Custom Cuts – decided to launch one of India’s most recent gendered comics after being told repeatedly that they weren’t “doing feminism right”. Don’t be fooled by the quirky aesthetic and pink-hued panels – the comic breaks down and explains some of the current developments concerning feminism and gender in a manner that’s easy-to-follow and extremely fun to read.

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Cover Image Courtesy: Kalmuhi

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