Today, art is no longer a privilege only for the elite; indeed the internet has made it easy for artists to share their work with people all over the world, just as it has presented thousands with a platform to share their thoughts and express themselves. And in such a climate, a ban on people voicing their opinion seems most archaic.
Rachita Taneja, who works as a human rights activist for an NGO decided to convey the irrationality of banning free speech to the authorities – with the help of art itself. In 2014, around the time students were being arrested for posting their opinions online under Section 66A, she launched Sanitary Panels, a comic series in response, to voice her own.
Sanitary Panels, true to its unconventional name, is a black and white doodle style comic series that deals with pertinent issues a young woman has to deal with every day in our country. Taneja uses her stick figure illustrations to address a variety of issues, like net neutrality, sex education, freedom of speech, LGBTQ rights, menstruation, misogyny and even people cutting queues, with unabashed wit and snark. Indeed, even the Sanitary Panels logo – a sanitary napkin – was chosen because it represents a topic that remains taboo and contentious in society today.
“Sanitary Panels is my way of processing and reflecting on what’s going on in the world. It’s a form of resistance against inequality,” she explains. “I like to think of my comic as saying things that society often tells women to not acknowledge or say. I just want to leave people feeling that it’s okay to speak their mind, to point out the obvious truths we’re told to ignore and the hypocrisies that powerful people hope we won’t talk about.”
And it’s quite clear that Sanitary Panels has been extraordinarily successful in engaging Indians around the country, sparking discussion and debate. Taneja’s immensely successful Facebook page has more than 15000 followers, and her stick figures are celebrities in their own right.
Written by Anisha Kashwani
Featured image source: Sanitary Panels