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.
[ 21:37 Mar 07, 2005 More headlines | permalink to this entry | ]