Pakistan: Rape Victim Fears For Life Following Acquittals
Tuesday, April 26, 2011 1:30 PM

Rape victim Mukhtaran Mai, having gained world recognition after revealing her ordeal of village council-sanctioned gang rape in 2002, now fears for her life and safety. Of the fourteen men accused of attacking her, only one has been convicted. Facing the prospect of her attackers' return to her village, Ms. Mai fears that both she and her family will be endangered.

Ms. Mai's case began in 2002, when she was raped as a punishment after her 12 year old brother allegedly had an affair with a woman from a rival tribe. Rather than accept her punishment or give up by committing suicide (the fate of many Pakistani women who are raped), Ms. Mai pursued justice. Her persistence quickly earned her the status of an icon for women's human rights in Pakistan.

As her case progressed, it was revealed that the allegations against Ms. Mai's brother were fabricated as a cover-up after he himself had been sexually assaulted by three tribesmen. After this emerged, six of the accused men were sentenced to death, and the rest were acquitted. The six convicted then appealed to the Lahore High Court, which upheld one of the convictions but overturned the rest, leaving five more of the alleged 14 attackers aquitted.

The recent acquittals have spurred outrage in the international human rights community as well as Ms. Mai's disillusionment. "I don't have any more faith in the courts," she said, according to BBC. "I have put my faith in God's judgment now. I don't know what the legal procedure is, but my faith [in the system] is gone." In spite of these developments, Ms. Mai has sworn to continue her work educating young women in the several schools that she set up close to her native village, Meerwala, in the Punjab province. According to The Independent, she claims that "When these people come back to my village, my family and myself will be under threat. I will be staying in Pakistan, in my village, but if I am hurt in any way the government and the Supreme Court will be responsible."

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Compiled from: The Independent, "Acquittals leave rape victim in fear for her life", (22 April 2011); BBC News, "Pakistan: Acquittals in Mukhtaran Mai gang rape case", (21 April 2011).