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17 Years On, Mukhtar Mai Still Waits For Justice

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Gang-raped and paraded naked in public 17 years ago on the orders of a village council, Mukhtar Mai became the symbol of resistance and courage in Pakistan when she raised voice against the brutality.

Mai was gang-raped in June 2002 on the orders of a village council as a punishment after her brother was accused of having illicit relations with a woman from rival clan. Customs would have suggested that Mai kills herself but she mustered up the courage to fight her rapists and next years of her life would be nothing short of resilience against the oppressive culture.

Mai had accused 14 men of being involved in the rape out of which six men were sentenced to death— four for raping Mai and two for being part of that Jirga and the remaining eight were released by an anti-terrorism court in August 2002.

Later, five of the convicts were acquitted and death sentence of one man was converted to life imprisonment by the Lahore High Court.

Mai then filed a petition against their acquittal in the Supreme Court. However, the top court had rejected her appeal by a majority of two to one in its April 2011.

The three-member bench had included Mian Shakirullah Jan and future chief justices Nasirul Mulk and Mian Saqib Nisar.

However, now the apex court is set to hear Mai’s review petition on Wednesday.

Mai’s trial and struggle for justice gained local and international media’s attention and rights activists rallied for her support across the world. Despite immense pressure to take back the cases, Mai stood firm and became the voice of oppressed women.

There are many documentaries made and books written on Mai’s struggle for justice. Besides being an outspoken advocate for women’s right, Mai runs Mukhtar Mai Women’s Welfare Organisation to help support and educate Pakistani women and girls.

Mai wrote an opinion piece for Geo in 2017 after a village council in Multan ordered that 16-year-old sister of a rape suspect be raped as a punishment and said:

“I am not surprised. It is a norm for panchaiyats and jirgas to penalise a woman for a man’s crime. They call it ‘justice.’ Men in Pakistan, guilty men, go unpunished. Women, innocent women, get punished.

The media will continue to raise the issues. The activists will continue to raise their voices. But unless the courts set a precedent and punish these men and their facilitators, not much will change.

Those in power, those in courts, those in police stations do not know what it is like for a woman to try to live a life after she has been assaulted. From then on, she is neither alive, nor dead. She is neither accepted by society, nor by her family.”

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