Mukhtaran Mai leads Women's Day rally
Taking a strong stand on the occasion of International Women's Day, Pakistani gang rape victim Mukhtaran Mai, flanked by other similar victims, asked at a candle-light rally here why her tormentors were still at large five years after the crime.
The walk on Wednesday evening was attended by victims of gang rape in the last one year - Naseema Lobano, Kainat Soomro and Naseem Joza - besides a number of women from across the country who had come to show their solidarity.
They also included Allah Diwaya and Shamim Diwaya, Naseem's parents, Anees Haroon and Nuzhat Shireen from the Aurat Foundation, Nargis Rehman of the Karachi Women's Peace Committee and Dr Shershah of the Pakistan Medical Association.
Asking rape victims to speak out, Mai said: "The whole world has been supportive of me and my cause, I don't understand why my own country was not."
Mai was ordered to be gang raped by four men in 2002 by a tribal council as compensation for her younger brother having allegedly eloped with a girl from a rival tribe.
Though an unlettered farmwoman, Mai lodged a complaint and fought for justice.
There has been a trial and conviction, but no punishment.
"The women of Pakistan have broken the silence and taken to the streets with their demands," declared Mai. She said she would support every oppressed woman in her pursuit for justice and continue to fight for the rights of women from all four provinces.
Mai stated that she had committed herself to the cause of education for women and children in Pakistan. "I am proud that after I decided to break the barrier and come forward for my right, women from my village feel secure and confident about being women," she said.
She said that even now when she remembered her rape, shivers would go down her spine. "But I had never imagined that Mukhtaran, who used to get scared of the littlest of issues, would rise up to the challenge like this!"
Striking a balanced note while talking to Daily Times, she said that she did not believe that all men were to be blamed for violence against women. In a lighter vein, she said she had been approached by a few men with proposals for marriage but "no one has impressed me enough".
Asked about the Women's Protection Act, enacted after President Pervez Musharraf relentlessly pushed it through parliament last year, Mai said that it was "a useless law unless it was implemented as it should be". Responding to a question, she said that the learning period for a person started at five years age when one was enrolled in school, but for her it had begun at age 33.
She regretted that after a lapse of five years her culprits remained at large.
Another rape victim, Kainat Soomro, expressed the hope that after the rally, justice for her and others like her would come soon. Nasima Labano lamented that those behind her rape had gone scot-free and were even given police protection.
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