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Mukhtar Mai

Updates on Mukhtar Mai

The Story of Mukhtar Mai

In June 2002, 30-year-old Mukhtar Mai was gang-raped on the orders
of a council of tribal elders from her village of Meerwala, Pakistan.

Mai herself was not charged with any wrongdoing, but a rumor had
spread through the village that her 14-year-old brother had been
seen in public with a girl from a rival tribe. In remote areas of
Pakistan, tribal codes often take precedence over both Islamic law
and the secular law of the land. Understanding the power of the
tribal councils, when Mai heard that the rival clan was going to put
her brother on trial she rushed before the self-appointed councilors
to plead for mercy on his behalf.

The elders heard her plea. With the logic of wanton cruelty, they
spared Mai's brother and ordered that she should be raped,
explaining that the rape would shame her family and thus restore the
offended tribe's honor. Four volunteers carried out the sentence in
the presence of a cheering mob, taking turns, and Mai was thrown
into the street, where her father covered her beaten body with a
shawl and walked her home through a village of staring eyes.
In the dark days that followed, Mai attempted to take her own life,
overwhelmed by physical pain and a sense of personal and familial
shame that is perhaps not possible for outsiders to understand.

But if Mai was momentarily ready to give in to despair, despair was
apparently not ready to take her. Her family revived her physically
and friends who had known and admired her throughout her life
revived her spiritually, or, in Mai's words, "awakened my dead
soul." This group of childhood friends - Nasreen Akhtar, Naseem
Akhtar, Faiza Kanwal, and Jamil Anjum - stood by Mai as she began a
process of recovery and a quest for justice that would, before long,
change not only Mai and her friends but the entire village.

The type of court that sentenced Mai, known as a panchiat court, is
not at all uncommon in rural Pakistan and her punishment, known as
karo kari, is not the norm but neither is it unheard of - more than
150 Pakistani women were raped by order of panchiat courts in the
first half of 2004. For women in rural Pakistan, honor consists
primarily in being thought of as pure - a raped woman has lost her
virginity, her purity, and is therefore not marriageable. To steal a
woman's virginity in Pakistan is thus, in many cases, to steal her
future and her dignity.

But there are more kinds of dignity than that found in the
perceptions of others. For Mukhtar, dignity also had its foundations
in education and religion. In a region where illiteracy is the norm,
Mukhtar had been educated and was herself a teacher of Islam. She
understood her rights as arising not only from the esteem in which
she was held by others, but also from her own understanding and
abilities and from an innate value bestowed by God on all humans and
codified in the Koran.

When the local imam, or Islamic cleric, heard of what had happened
to Mai, he used his position at the pulpit to speak out against the
injustice that had been done and to call for Mai's condemners and
attackers to be brought to trial before a civil court. The balance
of political power that had once favored the attackers was slowly
beginning to shift. The imam encouraged Mai to file an official
complaint with the police. Mai filed the complaint, which was at
first ignored.

She did not give up. Her attackers had assumed she would be too
ashamed to reveal what had happened, but with the assistance of her
friends and the imam, she got word out to the local and
international media. In a post-9/11 world where the Pakistani
government was eager to prove that it was on the side of law and
order, this media attention was enough to shame the civil
authorities into action. The tribal elders and the volunteer rapists
were brought to trial; six were sentenced to hang.

Mai and her family were pleased with the verdict, not only because
it represented justice for Mai, but because they felt it would help
to break the authority of panchiat courts and discourage the
practice of karo kari rapes.

"God has provided justice to me," Mai told reporters at the
time. "If more courts start giving decisions like this, I am sure
that rapes will be reduced, if not stopped totally. I am satisfied
with the decision."

As part of the settlement, Mai was given the equivalent of about
$8,000 in compensation - a very large sum in rural Pakistan. Perhaps
fearing that Pakistan's reputation would be hurt further if Mai were
to suffer any retribution in her village, the government also
offered to buy her a home in cosmopolitan Islamabad, where she would
live a life of relative luxury in a place where no one knew anything
about her past.
Mai declined those offers. Instead of leaving, she took the $8,000
and used it to start a school for girls in Meerwala, the village's
first. At this school, Mai and her friends work to provide young
girls with the knowledge and understanding that will give them more
power in the world, more awareness of their rights, and more dignity
to fall back on when those rights are challenged.

"I hope to make education more readily available to girls, to teach
them that no woman should ever go through what happened to me," Mai
says. "And I eventually hope to open more school branches in this
area of Pakistan. I need your support to kill illiteracy and to help
make tomorrow's women stronger. This is my goal in life."


In developing the school for girls, Mai and her team have faced a
variety of obstacles. As in any such project, giving money is one
way to help overcome these obstacles, and donations are more than
welcome (three secure donation options are listed in the bottom-left
corner of this page).

But there are other ways to help too. The school needs textbooks, in
English or in Urdu. Used books are fine. Do you or anyone you know
have access to such books, and would you be willing to gather them
and send them to Mai? What about other learning materials - rulers,
pens, pencils, notebooks, calculators, book bags, shoes, school
uniforms or computers?

Some of these may seem like simple things, but it is the cost of
such items that often makes it difficult for the poorest families to
educate their daughters. Worldwide development experience has proven
that the best way to ensure higher incomes and living standards in
future generations is to educate women and girls. Educated girls
live fuller lives as they grow into adulthood and eventually become
parents themselves. And educated mothers raise educated children,
who will have better chances to earn more and live a higher quality
of life. Most importantly to Mai, educated girls have the
understanding to recognize their rights and the dignity to fight for
their rights when that is necessary.

But in countries like Pakistan, the poorest families often do not
have the luxury of such long-term thinking. In homes where even
young girls perform work that is essential to the family, each day a
girl spends outside the home is a day of lost productivity, meaning
that the families face a heavy opportunity cost to educate girls, in
addition to the actual costs of learning materials. By donating
money or equipment to Mai's school, you will help mitigate the costs
and make it a little easier for these families to make the right

Contact Info

Email Adds

Mailing Address:

Ms Mukhtar Mai

Basti Meerwala Tehsil Jatoi

Post Office Wadowala

District Muzaffargarh

Punjab Pakistan

Telephone 92-0661460233

Mobile# 92-0300-7484261

Mukhtaran Mai's English Translator Muhammad Jamil is Also available
with her 24 Hours a day.

Office in Islamabad

Ms Nasim Akhtar

H #47, St # 35A

i-9-4, Islamabad Pakistan

Cell# 03006863759

For books, supplies, and checks, please use the Islamabad address to
ensure reliable delivery and avoid the low standards that
unfortunately characterize mail delivery in rural areas like





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