I decided to fight back: Mukhtar Mai
Daily Times Monitor
LAHORE: Soon after Mukhtar Mai was gang-raped on the orders of a village council three years ago, she considered her options, reports Newsweek. “She had never been accused of any crime. (The rape was carried out as supposed retribution for an alleged and implausible affair between Mukhtar Mai’s teenage brother and a 30-year-old woman). But according to Pakistan’s strict Islamic code, she was forever ‘dishonoured’,” it added.
It reported that the local Mastoi tribe that dominated the village council expected her to keep quiet or simply disappear while Mukhtar Mai’s own Gujjar clan refused to support her. Newsweek quoted 32-year-old Mukhtar Mai as saying that she had a choice of either committing suicide or fighting back and that she decided to fight back.
“She’s still fighting. Although an anti-terrorist court convicted and sentenced to death six of the 14 men initially charged with the rape in 2002, an appeals court overturned the sentences last month. Within days of that ruling, the Federal Sharia Court that has unclear jurisdiction nullified both verdicts. Then the Supreme Court announced plans to retry the case, and last week released four of the attackers on bail before the government ordered them re-arrested,” it reported. She was afraid of returning to the same sense of insecurity she felt three years ago when she first heard the men were out of jail, Newsweek quoted Mukhtar Mai as saying. She could not forget what happened; it kept haunting her, she added.
“Until the legal setbacks, Mukhtar Mai’s unlikely struggle for justice – her attempts both to force changes in her society and to improve her own situation – was succeeding. Using government compensation and contributions from supporters, Mukhtar Mai built the first school for girls in her village, as well as a school for boys. She plans to use a $33,000 grant from the Canadian government to add a library and a playground, and to set up a cattle-breeding project for poor village women. On land Mukhtar Mai recently inherited, she envisions building a children’s hospital,” the report stated.
Newsweek reported that Mukhtar Mai had also become a model for Pakistani women pressing for more rights and that she had been a guest speaker at women’s forums countrywide and had even taken her message to Spain and India. “By broadcasting her case, she has embarrassed the authorities. The Pakistani government, aiming to show its support, has paved the dirt road leading into Mukhtar Mai’s village and is now connecting local homes to the electricity grid,” it added.
Newsweek also quoted Sherry Rehman, an activist and a Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) MNA as saying that the US civil-rights campaign had Rosa Parks, who helped to spark an entire movement, and Pakistan now had Mukhtar Mai.
“When the four convicted rapists briefly returned to Mukhtar Mai’s village last week, members of the Mastoi tribe celebrated. But the village is a changed place. In an unprecedented display of independence, several dozen local women filed into Mukhtar Mai’s dusty compound as nervous and perplexed local men looked on from the road. The women sat on rope beds next to Mukhtar Mai’s cow, goat and two buffaloes. They talked about women’s rights,” Newsweek reported.
It quoted Mukhtar Mai as saying that she tried to do something positive to bring about change and that gave her satisfaction.
“She’ll have to wait longer for the satisfaction of justice,” Newsweek added.