“Abused Goddesses”: Perversion or Persuasion?

Posted on December 13, 2013 by


In attempts to raise awareness for domestic abuse, an Indian ad agency, Taproot, released the “Save Our Sisters” campaign in September 2013.  The printed “Abused Goddesses” campaign consists of portrayals of Indian Goddesses adorned in more than gold jewelry, a headdress, and traditional clothing.  Goddesses Lakshmi, Durga, and Saraswati also don a myriad of wounds and bruises.  The caption underneath the pictures read, “Pray that we never see this day.  Today, more than 68% of women in India are victims of domestic violence.  Tomorrow, it seems like no woman shall be spared.  Not even the ones we pray to.”  This controversial campaign has inevitably led to a large range of viewpoints.  Media coverage, in particular, has portrayed two distinct opinions towards the campaign.

<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”https://www.slideshare.net/sarahbarnes04/abused-goddesses-campaign&#8221; title=”Abused Goddesses Campaign ” target=”_blank”>Abused Goddesses Campaign </a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/sarahbarnes04&#8243; target=”_blank”>sarahbarnes04</a></strong> </div>


Among western and international sources, the “Abused Goddesses” campaign is hailed as “incredibly powerful,” “hard-hitting,” and “influential.”  The depiction of the goddesses as victims of abuse is viewed as a “simple” and “effective” manner of provoking interest.  On an idealogical level, it gives the message that if one hurts the creator, women feel the pain.  The campaign also exposes the social hypocrisy and double standards within Hinduism.  On one hand, men are worshipping and praying to a woman, and on the other hand, they are going home and abusing a woman. An unfortunate duality results with worshiping someone you can’t see, and abusing the one you can.  The manipulation of Hindu mythology demonstrates the unprejudiced nature of violence towards women, regardless of class, caste, and religion.  Supporters of the campaign acknowledge that the controversy provokes and elicits attention.  Richard Dubey notes, “No ad campaign can prevent domestic violence. But if it raises awareness, it has been effective.”  From an outside perspective, it seems admirable to denounce domestic abuse in a new and innovative manner, and meanwhile connecting to the masses.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, there are people who believe the campaign’s overall premise is at the expense of the integrity of Hinduism.  These reactions derive mainly from Hinduism websites.  The “Abused Goddesses” campaign is condemned as “trite,” “objectifying,” and “attacking the Goddesses.”  The main objection towards the “Save Our Sisters” platform is the concept that by portraying Goddesses as victims of domestic abuse, they are consequently putting women on an undeserved platform.  This, in and of itself, inevitably perpetuates domestic violence, as women are unable to live up to such an ideal.  The campaign sets the underlying assumption that women must behave like Goddesses in order to be respected.  Thus, when they fail to meet these standards, the women will be punished further.  According to those opposing the campaign, the print ads cross the line between the clear distinction of women and Goddesses.  Not only does the ad objectify women, but it correspondently debases the role of Goddesses.  As the campaign continues to get worldwide attention, stereotypes are inescapably reinforced.

Both sides of the argument denounce domestic violence.  The conflict lies in the interpretation of the manner Goddesses are depicted and the assumptions about the role Goddesses should play in society.  The western and international perspective revolves around the idea of ending abuse in India, specifically.  The Hinduism perspective takes on a more critical approach, as it revolves around the misrepresentation of women and Goddesses.  

Regardless the different lines of thought, one flaw I see in the campaign is that it alludes to the role of Hinduism in domestic violence.  Domestic violence is not, shockingly I know, limited or confined to a certain religion.  Instead, domestic violence is a nonreligious crime prevalent throughout the entire world, regardless ethnicity, gender, age, region, or even religion.


Continents around the world experience different cultural views of domestic violence, different cultural norms, means of enforcement, and different definitions of domestic violence.  This makes reliable statistics about sexual assault throughout the world very sparse, if not nonexistent.  Take India, for example.  According to Indian law, rape committed within a marriage is not considered a crime.  Indian law does not count acts of oral sex as criminal rape, and it does not allow rape for men.  Crime rates can be greatly underreported.  Consequently, crime rates are highly variable and highly unreliable.  I am curious as to where “Save Our Sisters” got the statistic regarding the “68% of women in India are victims of domestic violence…” statistic.  The bottom line is domestic violence exists worldwide.  Domestic violence is a brutality worldwide.  In that sense, the entanglement of religion and rape is an unfair exploitation of the rectitude of the religion.  In this case, Hinduism has no direct correlation with domestic abuse.  Yet, the meshing of the two leads to an inappropriate convolution that domestic abuse is a Hindu thing, rooted in Hindu traditions.

The “Abused Goddesses” campaign precariously teeters between being award-winning and being overly sensationalist.  While provoking the masses, the campaign thrives at the expense of the heritage of traditional Hinduism beliefs.

“You can’t eliminate an injustice by creating another set of injustice.” ~Nelson Mandela


Bialik, Carl. “Statistics Shed Little Light on Rape Rates.” The Wall Street Journal. N.p., 30 Aug 2013. Web. 12 Dec 2013. <http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324324404579043623106927570>.

Hafiz, Yasmine.  “’Abused Goddesses’ Shows Shocking Images Of Hindu Deities For Campaign Against Domestic Violence In India (PHOTOS).” Huffington Post. N.p., 06 Sept. 2013. Web. 5 Nov 2013. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/06/abused-goddesses-campaign-domestic-violence-india_n_3880515.html>

Jha, Praneta. “Abused or not, women are not goddesses.” Hindustan Times. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Entertainment/Art/Abused-or-not-women-are-not-goddesses/Article1-1120030.aspx, 10 Sept. 2013. Web. 30 Oct 2013.

Jha, Rega. “India’s Incredibly Powerful “Abused Goddesses” Campaign Condemns Domestic Violence.” BuzzFeed. N.p., 05 Sept. 2013. Web. 5 Nov 2013. <http://www.buzzfeed.com/regajha/indias-incredibly-powerful-abused-goddesses-campaign-condemn>.

Kaur Oberoi, Reshmi. “Critics Slam Art That Depicts Abused Indian Goddesses, Raises Awareness For Domestic Violence.” Huffington Post. N.p., 25 Oct. 2013. Web. 5 Nov 2013. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/25/abused-goddess-campaign_n_4164256.html?ir=Impact>.

Roy, Vaishna. “Goddess under attack.” The Hindu. N.p., 15 Sept. 2013. Web. 5 Nov 2013. <http://www.thehindu.com/features/the-yin-thing/goddess-under-attack/article5129205.ece>.

Taylor, Victoria. “Ads with abused Hindu goddesses highlight plight of domestic violence in India.” New York Daily News. N.p., 06 Sept. 2013. Web. 5 Nov 2013. <http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/abused-goddess-ads-highlight-plight-india-article-1.1448072

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