A victory over rape stigma

By marrying, she has defeated another stigma against rape victims in conservative Pakistani society. The village council ordered her rape as a punishment for actions attributed to her younger brother. He was accused of having illicit relations with a woman from a rival clan, but investigations showed that the boy had been molested by three of those clan's tribesmen, and the accusation against him had been a cover-up.

The Toronto Star
March 19, 2009

A victory over rape stigma
Pakistani woman who challenged her attackers in renowned rights case weds her former guard
Salman Masood, New York Times

MukhtarMai.jpg

Gang-raped in 2002 on the orders of a village council, Mukhtar mai went on to become a rights activist and symbol of hope for oppressed women. By marrying, she has defeated another stigma against rape victims in Pakistan. Anjum Naveed/AP

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan–Mukhtar Mai, the resilient Pakistani who was gang-raped in 2002 on the orders of a village council but became a symbol of hope for voiceless and oppressed women, has married.

In a telephone interview, Mai, 37, said her husband is a police constable who was assigned to guard her in the wake of the attack and who had been asking for her hand for several years. She is his second wife.

She said she and the constable, Nasir Abbas Gabol, 30, married Sunday in a simple ceremony in her dusty farming village, Meerwala, in Punjab province.

"He says he madly fell in love with me," Mai said with a big laugh when asked what finally persuaded her to say yes.

Pakistani rape victims often commit suicide, but Mai, who is also know as Mukhtaran Bibi, instead successfully challenged her attackers in court, winning international renown for her bravery.

She runs several schools, an ambulance service and a women's aid group in her village and has written an autobiography.

By marrying, she has defeated another stigma against rape victims in conservative Pakistani society.

The village council ordered her rape as a punishment for actions attributed to her younger brother.

He was accused of having illicit relations with a woman from a rival clan, but investigations showed that the boy had been molested by three of those clan's tribesmen, and the accusation against him had been a cover-up.

Gabol was one of a group of police officers deployed to protect her after she was threatened by the rapists' relatives to try to stop her from pressing charges.

Gabol had a hard time persuading Mai to marry. He had been calling her off and on since 2003 but formally proposed a year and a half ago, she said.

"But I told my parents I don't want to get married."

Finally, four months ago, he tried to kill himself by taking sleeping pills.

"The morning after he attempted suicide, his wife and parents met my parents but I still refused," Mai said.

Gabol then threatened to divorce his first wife, Shumaila.

Shumaila, along with Gabol's parents and sisters, tried to talk Mai into marrying him, taking on the status of second wife. In Pakistan, a man can legally have up to four wives.

It was her concern about Shumaila, Mai said, that moved her to relent.

"I am a woman and can understand the pain and difficulties faced by another woman," Mai said.

"She is a good woman."

In the end, Mai put a few conditions on Gabol. He had to transfer the ownership of his ancestral house to his first wife and agree to give her a plot of land and a monthly stipend roughly equivalent to $125 (U.S.).

Asked if she had plans to leave her village to live with her husband in his village, Mai said no.

"I have seen pain and happiness in Meerwala. I cannot think of leaving this place."

Her husband, she said, "can come here whenever he wants and finds it convenient."


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