A brave woman
March 5, 2005 11:57 AM   Subscribe

The NYT op-ed piece about Mukhtar Mai caught my eye. Tribal elders in Pakistan had her gang-raped in order to shame her family and thus restore the offended tribe's honor. Instead of staying quite or committing suicide, she went and opened a school in her village. Now her life is in danger again.This has been covered around the world. And you can help too. Follow up from this post.
posted by nostrada (10 comments total)
How could even the most incompetent and uncooperative police investigation suppress the victim's testimony? And there was not a single witness who could be called to confirm her story, if a woman's word is not enough?
posted by amber_dale at 12:18 PM on March 5, 2005

My guess is that the majority, if not all, of the members of the police are male. And more or less from the same kind of back ground.
posted by nostrada at 12:37 PM on March 5, 2005

Okay, this article says she did testify. Were the apparently required four male Muslim witnesses lacking?
posted by amber_dale at 12:57 PM on March 5, 2005

Her story is fascinating. The op-ed seems a little off (or maybe info on the site in her name is incomplete) in saying that she started two schools with the initial money, one for boys and one for girls - mukhtarmai.com mentions no boys school in its current or future projects, and in describing her as an illiterate person who enrolled in her own school. From her story on the same site: In a region where illiteracy is the norm, Mukhtar had been educated and was herself a teacher of Islam. I'm guessing that someone who taught Islam would need to be able to read the Koran, but if illiteracy is the norm in her area there must be other ways of transmitting that knowledge.

It would be interesting to know a little more about her life before the tribal council sentenced her to be gang-raped. I would imagine that she had practice battling social pressures on a smaller scale in her culture, having attained age 28 or 30 without being married (or was she?).
posted by PY at 1:59 PM on March 5, 2005

Interesting use of the term gang-rape, since these particular tribal cultures act like gangs. Territorial, criminal, vengeful, and ultimately self-destructive.

The few Muslim women I've known have had chances at education and took great advantage of those. Yet, there was a surprising element of acceptance at family's treating them so much different than boys.
posted by Saydur at 4:09 PM on March 5, 2005

Human Rights Comission of Pakistan have given her an award. Maybe she'll be able to raise enough money for the boys' school.
Education is the real challenge in the world.

An interesting perspective containing the word 'Sodom'.
posted by asok at 4:23 PM on March 5, 2005

The op-ed says that readers donated $133,000 after a September column on her and that this came at a time when the schools really needed it. I think that was before she was awarded a medal by the HRSP. It's nice to hear about that kind of support of her.
posted by PY at 5:13 PM on March 5, 2005

> Mukhtar, who had never seen a school before she built her own, decided to fight her battle for women's rights in the classroom. "Education will play a very, very important role in changing the minds of men," she says. So she built the Mukhtar Mai School for Girls and the Farid Gujjar School for Boys, named after her father.

The case is tricky. The local police were rendered helpless by the tribal elders, and refused to investigate after the rape; it was Pakistani federal authorities who eventually intervened -- via a special anti-terrorism court -- and produced an enlightened verdict. Now that has been overturned by an appeals court on a technicality; the court ruled that "evidence produced before the trial court was insufficient and there were faults in the police investigation".

The sad irony is that this is quite possibly true, and the difficulty is that this is an appeals court challenging the ruling of an authoritarian anti-terrorism court with shaky constitutional authority and few safeguards. It's also possible, of course, that the Musharraf government was always puppeteering the courts and proceeded from the premise that they could convict when attention was high and acquit when it wasn't so high, or that there's pressure right now to placate tribal government as Pakistan faces increasing lawlessness and near-open insurrection in areas such as Baluchistan.

Even as I admire her courage for staying in her home, I fear for Mukhtar Mai's safety.
posted by dhartung at 11:41 PM on March 5, 2005

But do remember the bright side to all this: things are changing over there. It's slow, yes, and people get hurt, but large-scale social change never happens overnight.

Progress is being made. That's a good thing.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:10 AM on March 6, 2005

"...she built the Mukhtar Mai School for Girls and the Farid Gujjar School for Boys, named after her father."

It seems sadly ironic that she is willing to honour her father in this way when it was he, along with her uncle (and another) that took her to the local 'hearing' by the tribal elders of the (supposedly) aggrieved family - they must have known what was to come. Her presence had been demanded by the Punchayat (tribal council) , after they rejected a marriage proposal between Mukhtar Mai's younger brother and a girl from the offended tribe.

She's certainly a hero. I hope things turn out well. Her story will doubtless be positive motivation for other women to stand up in the face of such paternalistic anachronisms.
posted by peacay at 9:12 AM on March 7, 2005

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