Mukhtaran Bibi (Punjabi, Urdu: مختاراں بی بی, born circa 1972, now known as Mukhtār Mā'ī, مختار مائی) is a Pakistani woman from the village of Meerwala, in the rural tehsil (county) of Jatoi of the Muzaffargarh District of Pakistan. In June 2002, Mukhtār Mā'ī was the survivor of a gang rape as a form of honour revenge, on the orders of a tribal council of the local Mastoi Baloch clan that was richer and more powerful as opposed to her Tatla clan in that region.
Although custom would expect her to commit suicide after being raped, Mukhtaran spoke up, and pursued the case, which was picked up by both domestic and international media. On 1 September 2002, an anti-terrorism court sentenced 6 men (including the 4 rapists) to death for rape. In 2005, the Lahore High Court cited "insufficient evidence" and acquitted 5 of the 6 convicted, and commuted the punishment for the sixth man to a life sentence. Mukhtaran and the government appealed this decision, and the Supreme Court suspended the acquittal and held appeal hearings. In 2011, the Supreme Court too acquitted the accused.
Though the safety of Mukhtaran, and her family and friends, has been in jeopardy she remains an outspoken advocate for women's rights. She started the Mukhtar Mai Women's Welfare Organization to help support and educate Pakistani women and girls. In April 2007, Mukhtar Mai won the North-South Prize from the Council of Europe. In 2005, Glamour Magazine named her "Woman of the Year". According to the New York Times, "Her autobiography is the No. 3 best seller in France , and movies are being made about her. She has been praised by dignitaries like Laura Bush and the French foreign minister". However, on 8 April 2007, the New York Times reported that Mukhtar Mai lives in fear for her life from the Pakistan government and local feudal lords. General Pervez Musharraf, the former president of Pakistan, has admitted on his personal blog that he placed restrictions on her movement in 2005, as he was fearful that her work, and the publicity it receives, hurt the international image of Pakistan.
Mukhtaran testified that in June her adolescent brother Shakur was suspected and accused by the Mastoi of committing fornication with a Mastoi woman, Salma, also known as Nasim. At the trial, the judge commented that the accusation was unsupported.
Early in the afternoon of Saturday, 22 June 2002, Shakur was abducted by three Mastoi men. He was taken that afternoon to the residence of the main defendant, Abdul Khaliq, Salma's brother. Shaqoor testified that he had been abducted by three Mastoi men, each of whom sodomized him in a sugarcane field. The court determined, based on a doctor's testimony, that Shaqoor had indeed been sodomized and assaulted. His attackers were convicted in a separate trial.
Shakur shouted for help, while being taken into Abdul Khaliq's house. Relatives heard his cries, Mukhtaran, her mother, and other women of the house rushed outside, where several Mastoi men claimed that Shaqoor had fornicated with Salma. The women went immediately to Abdul Khaliq's house to demand his release, but Abdul Khaliq refused. Mukhtaran's mother then sent her brother to get the police. There were no telephones or police in Meerwala, and the Jatoi police station was 18 km to the north over dirt roads.
Some members of Mukhtaran's clan, the Muslim Tatla, assembled. They were told that their kinsman Shakur had been held by the Mastoi, because he had been accused illicit sex with Salma. Separately, about 200 to 250 Mastoi gathered outdoors, less than a hundred meters from Abdul Khaliq's house. According to some accounts, a Mastoi tribal council formed, consisting of three defendants: Ramzan Pachar, G.F. Mastoi and a Mastoi clan chief, Faiz M. Mastoi, also known as Faiza or Faizan.
The police arrived before sunset, freed Shakur from the Mastoi, and took him to a police station and held him, pending a possible sex crime charge against him. At the High Court trial, the defense contended that prosecution witnesses could not have seen some of the things that they had claimed to see in the darkness (the village had virtually no electric power service).
Mukhtaran's family proposed to settle the matter with the Mastoi by marrying Shakur to Salma, and marrying Mukhtaran to one of the Mastoi men, and - if Shakur was found to be at fault - to give some land to Salma's family. This proposal was conveyed to Faizan, the Mastoi elder. According to some of the prosecution witnesses, Faizan was initially agreeable, but two defendants Ramzan Pachar and G.F. Mastoi refused, insisting that illicit sex must be settled with illicit sex according to the principle of an eye-for-an-eye. Some other Mastoi men allegedly joined them in this demand. Ramzan Pachar and G.F. Mastoi then came to Mukhtaran's family, and told them that the Mastoi would accept the proposed settlement, if she would personally come and apologize to Salma's family and the Mastoi akath. She went to the Mastoi gathering with her father and maternal uncle. By the time they arrived, the assembly had dwindled to about 70 people. Faizan stated that the dispute was settled and Mukhtaran's family should be "forgiven."
Immediately afterward and less than a hundred meters from the akath, Abdul Khaliq, armed with a 30-caliber pistol, forcibly took Mukhtaran into a stable where she was gang raped. After about an hour inside, she was pushed outside wearing only a torn qameez (long shirt). To make an example of her so as not to defy the local authorities, she was paraded naked in front of hundreds of onlookers on the orders of a jirga. Her father covered her up with a shawl and took her home. Her clothes were presented as evidence in court and following the medical examination of Mukhtaran and chemical analysis of her clothes at least two semen stains were revealed. That same night, the police were informed that the two clans had settled their dispute, and that Salma's family was withdrawing its complaint against Shaqoor. His uncle retrieved him from the police station around 2 or 3 a.m.
The following week, a local Muslim imam (mosque prayer leader), Abdul Razzaq, condemned the rape in his sermon on the Friday after it occurred. He brought a local journalist, Mureed Abbas, to meet Mukhtaran's father, and persuaded the family to file charges against the rapists.
Mukhtaran and her family went to the Jatoi police station on 30 June 2002, to file charges.
Awards and acclaim
- On 2 August 2005, the Pakistani government awarded Mukhtaran the Fatima Jinnah gold medal for bravery and courage.
- On 2 November 2005, the US magazine Glamour named Mukhtaran as their Woman Of The Year.
- On 12 January 2006, Mukhtaran Mai published her memoir with the collaboration of Marie-Thérèse Cuny under the title Déshonorée. The originating publisher of the book is OH ! Editions in France and her book was published simultaneously in German by Droemer Verlag as Die Schuld, eine Frau zu sein.
- On 16 January 2006, to coincide with the publication of her memoir, Mukhtaran Mai travelled to Paris (France) and was received by Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy.
- On 2 May 2006, Mukhtaran spoke at the United Nations headquarters in New York. In an interview with United Nations TV, Mai said that "she wanted to get the message across to the world that one should fight for their rights and for the rights of the next generation." She was welcomed by UN Under-Secretary General Shashi Tharoor, who said, “I think it is fair to say that anyone who has the moral courage and internal strength to turn such a brutal attack into a weapon to defend others in a similar position, is a hero indeed, and is worthy of our deepest respect and admiration.”
- On 31 October 2006, Mukhtaran's memoir was released in the United States as In the Name of Honor: A Memoir.
- On 15 November 2006, Pakistan's lower house of Parliament voted to alter its rape laws to move them from religious law to penal code, effectively separating rape from adultery. It also modifies the law to no longer require that the victim produce four witnesses of the assault, and it allows circumstantial and forensic evidence be used for investigation. The bill reduced the penalty for adultery from execution to a maximum of five years' incarceration and a 10,000 rupee fine. A modified version of the bill, called the Protection of Women Bill, was signed by Musharraf in late 2006. Critics of the final version of the law complained that "[a] judge can still decide whether rape cases will be heard in a civil or an Islamic court. Rape victims will have to report their complaints to district courts, not at local police stations, compelling many to travel long distances. As a result, many will be discouraged." 24 January 2007
- In March 2007, Mukhtaran formally received the 2006 North-South Prize of the Council of Europe for her contribution to human rights. In April 2007, Mukhtaran Mai won the North-South Prize from the Council of Europe.
- In October 2010, Laurentian University of Canada decided to award an honourary doctorate degree to Mukhtar Mai.