On April 22nd, 2011 Pakistan’s Supreme Court struck a death knell to the rights of women in a country whose rape rates jumped by double digits last year. In the face of overwhelming evidence, hundreds of witnesses, and even a signed confession, the court, all men, acquitted five out of the six men convicted of the gang rape of a lone woman. The decision marked a bitter end to the victim’s decade long struggle for justice, during which time she endured harassment, illegal detainment, and psychological torture.
Today, I write as a Pakistani mother’s son to voice my outrage over Mukhatar Mai’s case. This story is personal for me, and is personal for all sons who have mothers, and all brothers who have sisters. The story of Mukhtar Mai is that of all women-and men-who have experienced or witnessed sexual violence.
Mukhtar Mai comes from a dusty farming village in Punjabi, a province which straddles the dividing line between India and Pakistan. Home to most of Pakistan’s military and civilian elite, Punjab is the wealthiest and most densely populated region in the country. It is also an area steeped in cultural tradition; it is this culture, on both sides of the India-Pakistan border, that often encourages suicide as a fitting response by a rape victim to her plight—it is, after all, a way to save her family’s honor.