In 2002, 30 year old Mukhtar Mai of Meerwala, Pakistan, was gang raped near her home in Pakistan. The rape was ordered by the village council as retribution for her 12 year old brother’s alleged affair. In addition to the rape, she was paraded naked throughout the village. Mai was expected to take the punishment meted out for her brother’s trangression in complete silence.
Mai was one of 151 women gang raped in Pakistan that year. The majority of the woman took their punishment then went on with their lives. But, Mai stood up for herself and spoke out publicly. It was not easy for her to do. She had to stand up against village tradition and threats against her life. She withstood it all and pressed charges against her rapists. She won the case and received a monetary award from the government. She has used the money to build two schools in her village.
Three years later, the fate of the rapists is still up in the air. One appeal court overturned the verdict and ordered the release of the men. A retrial was ordered and the case now waits in Pakistan’s Supreme Court.
Although she was vindicated, she still had many hurdles within her country to overcome. She had opportunities to travel outside Pakistan to meet with human rights organizations, but was blocked at every turn. Her passport was confiscated at one point and a ban was applied for out of country travel. It’s ironic that at the same time she was banned her from travel, her fellow citizens honored her. In August 2005, Mai received the Fatima Jinnah gold medal which is awarded to those showing courage and bravery.
Mai is ready to add another honor to her collection. Glamour Magazine has selected her as the 2005 Woman of the Year. The prize is $20,000, which she plans to use towards earthquake relief in her recently devasted Pakistan. This time she will be on hand to receive the honor. President Musharraf has lifted the travel ban and Mai has already left Pakistan for New York. Mai is truly a hero of international proportions.