Shallow Thoughts

Akkana's Musings on Open Source, Science, and Nature.

Mon, 07 Mar 2005

Mukhtar Mai is a Hero

The acquittals in the Pakistan gang rape case are an outrage. You may have read about the case: a village tribunal in a remote area of Pakistan passed sentence that Mukhtar Mai be gang raped to punish her brother for an offense he allegedly committed (though most news reports indicated that he was not guilty of the offense, which was actually committed by one of the rapists. Not that that has any bearing on whether a wholly innocent woman should be raped for someone else's supposed crimes.)

The case spawned international outrage in a world previously unaware of the brutality of Pakistan's archaic tribunal system. The rapists were convicted and sentenced to death; but last week, their conviction was overturned.

Mukhtar Mai is a hero for standing up to them and continuing to press her case. I can't imagine what it must be like to be in her position. I am in awe of her. Mai's courage will help every woman in Pakistan, and in other countries with similar disregard for women's humanity. And not only that: she's using any financial gains from the case to build schools in her village. She's built two already.

Several of the BBC followup stories have mentioned that most women "sentenced" under this barbaric system, to be raped or otherwise mistreated for the supposed offenses of male members of their clan, 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." If anyone wonders why they might think that, last week's acquittal should answer any such questions rather handily.

None of the stories I've read anywhere goes into detail on the reason for the conviction having been overturned, besides the vague "lack of evidence". This seems odd considering all the reports of the original trial cited eyewitnesses. It's not clear why so few details are being reported. No one mentions the double standard which seems to be in place in Pakistan: where was the opportunity for Mai or her brother to appeal her outrageous punishment for his supposed crime?

The case will be appealed to a higher court, following international outrage at the current verdict. It is not yet clear whether the rapists will remain in prison until then.

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[ 20:37 Mar 07, 2005    More headlines | permalink to this entry ]

First Geology Field Trip; Signs of Spring

Catching up with events of the past week ...

My Field Geology class had its first field trip on Saturday. Great fun, and lovely weather and scenery -- the meadows were full of wildflowers and meadowlarks.

We didn't study many actual rock formations, though we did see some lovely marble, gneiss, and quartzite outcrops and several sinkholes. Mostly we practiced mapping skills with the Brunton pocket transit, triangulating bearings and measuring elevations to plot contours. Today I went to the USGS to pick up some maps for local mapping practice, only to find that they've discontinued the 15' series, and I'd have to get a huge number of 7.5' maps (at $6 each) to cover the areas I need to sight. I got three maps, which turned out to be vastly insufficient for my one practice hike so far. I may need to get some downloadable ones and do my own printing.

Meanwhile, there are other signs of spring: at home, a mockingbird has been singing fairly regularly for a week now (before that, there were sporadic short bursts of song but nothing sustained), and I saw one of the Audubon's warblers carrying nest-building material. And at the Los Gatos perc ponds, a killdeer has decided to nest on the grass right next to the entrance road. The rangers have her area roped off, and she doesn't seem too upset by all the traffic passing by. She wasn't actually sitting on the nest when we went to see her; she sat or crouched in several different places in the grass, not just in one spot.

Finally, at Stevens Creek reservoir, a log near the inlet of the reservoir 1hangout spot for the lake's turtle population.

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[ 20:21 Mar 07, 2005    More nature | permalink to this entry ]