Pakistan: High-profile gang-rape victim to appeal acquittals in Pakistan's apex court

Pakistan Times
The victim of a high-profile gang rape in Pakistan will file an appeal with the Supreme Court against Thursday's acquittal of five men who had earlier been sentenced to death for the attack.
"I hope that the Supreme Court will give me justice, otherwise I leave it to the God's court," Mukhtiar Mai, in her early 30s, told a press conference arranged by rights groups in Islamabad.
Mai was raped for more than an hour in the village of Meerwala in Punjab province in June 2002, as punishment for her brother's alleged affair with a woman of a powerful rival clan.

Mai, who went on to become an activist after the attack, said she and her family members were receiving death threats from her alleged attackers' clan.

Despite offers by some organisations for safe relocation to another country, she was determined to stay in Pakistan and fight her case.

Life is in danger

"My life is in danger, I am receiving death threats but I am more worried about my family. I and my family need government's protection," she said.

"Although I am facing threats from my attackers, I will not leave my village and country," she said.

Pakistani human rights groups have criticised the government and police after a court overturned the convictions of the five men.

They said authorities had failed to protect witnesses to the attack on Mai, meaning the high court in central Multan city had no choice but to uphold the appeals.

"The High Court's verdict has shocked me. I had no idea that the court will reverse the punishments," Mai told reporters.

Women in South Asia are often subject to brutal "honour punishments", from acid-burning to rape and murder, paying for the alleged crimes of relatives.


Mai's case shocked the country and sparked international outrage. Later the same year an anti-terrorist court in Punjab province sentenced six men to death by hanging and acquitted another eight defendants.

Mai's appeal against the acquittal of the eight was also rejected by court on Thursday.

After the rape, Mai embarked on a mission to improve girls' education in Pakistan, where 72 percent of women are illiterate, using her compensation money to set up her district's first ever school for girls.œ

Pakistan rape victim leads march

The woman involved in a high-profile rape case has led a protest march in the Pakistani city of Multan ahead of Tuesday's International Women's Day.

Hundreds of people participated in the march, called to protest against the acquittal last week of five of the accused in the case.

Mukhtar Mai was raped, allegedly on the orders of a village council to punish an offence blamed on her brother.

Ms Mai said those acquitted should not be released until her appeal was heard.

Five of the six convicted in the case were cleared on appeal last Thursday.

Security fears

Addressing the rally, Ms Mai said the men might flee the country if released.

Justice in spotlight

She thanked the participants for their support, especially women who had turned out in large numbers.

Many men also attended, which observers say is rare for such a cause in the highly conservative city of Multan.

Ms Mai says if the five are released, she is sure they will look for her and harm her.

"There's a lot of danger now for me, even though I have policemen protecting me. But I am going to go back to my village, I have to go back there," she told a news conference in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, on Saturday.

"The decision that's been taken by the court saddens me. God willing, I am going to appeal in the Supreme Court, for which I need you people as well," she said, calling on the press for their support.

Monday's march was called by Pattan, a non-government organisation that arranges women's events all over the country on International Women's Day each year.

Pakistani rights groups say Ms Mai has shown courage

A joint statement issued by several leading non-government organisations after the acquittals saluted Ms Mai's courage and bravery in taking on the system.

The statement said the reason for the increasing violence against women in Pakistan was the fact that men guilty of assaulting them were rarely punished.

Village elders allegedly ordered Ms Mai's rape in February 2002 after allegations surfaced that her then 12-year-old brother had had sex with a woman from a more prominent clan. He denied the charges.

Medical evidence presented in court confirmed that Ms Mai had been subjected to rape.

Amid international outcry, four of her alleged rapists and two village elders were sentenced to death the same year.

In addition to the five acquittals, a sixth man, one of the village elders, had his death sentence commuted to life imprisonment last week.

The BBC's Paul Anderson in Islamabad says most women who fall prey to attacks designed to restore the slighted honour of a family, clan or tribe, accept their fate - believing that tribal or feudal leaders are too powerful to resist and that the police and judicial systems are stacked against them.

Hundreds of women are killed or injured in "honour" attacks in Pakistan every year.

By Azka Jameel - Pakistan Times Staff Correspondent / PT Monitoring Desk