Society and Culture

Rape. No more. No less. No words

Fifteen years is a long time. Especially for justice to have gone undelivered.

Jul 29, 2017
Fifteen years is a long time. Especially for justice to have gone undelivered.
Mukhtaran Mai has survived it all. Her gang rape sent shockwaves across global capitals. It also shook the Pakistani establishment to the core. Not because of the violence meted out in the name of village justice. But because this poor and illiterate village woman had dared to speak up while the international media listened.
The conservative circles dismiss Mai as a figment of the latter’s creation. Gen Musharraf accused victims such as Mai of staging rape to get foreign nationalities. Mai stayed the course and we can’t help but admire her very real courage. It’s a separate matter that there has been some appropriation at work over the years. For instance she was named Glamour magazine Woman of the Year and also taken to a Karachi catwalk. In her own words, the latter was a symbolic move to inspire women everywhere one step at a time. We are a little skpectical of Pakistani fashion elite’s tokenism towards a woman whose class status would ordinarily have seen her far, far removed from the fashion pack.
There has also been an American opera based on her life story. Thumbprint first hit theatres back in 2014 but Mai only travelled to the United States last month to watch her life play out, this time, before an audience of a different kind. This in itself shows immense bravery. Mai’s ordeal continues. She, after all, had to contend with her rapists as neighbours. Their children attend her school. This is an extremely torturous story to live. And harder, seemingly, to tell on stage. While Mai’s story is celebrated across the globe, things haven’t changed much at home.
Fifteen years on, also somewhere in the Multan area, two young girls are at the centre of a revenge rape. The story goes something like this: they share an extended family. The 12-year-old was raped by a cousin. As ‘retribution’, the same was done to the attacker’s teenaged sister, who suffered the ordeal within earshot of her parents and other male relatives. Which the makes the latter, to our mind, no different from those men who shared and ‘enjoyed’ a video of a young girl being raped by a gang of four after it was uploaded online. The positive news in this latest case is that some 20 men have been arrested.
Pakistan’s broken justice system has another chance to redeem itself. It could not give justice to Mai and this new case may just be another opportunity that must not be squandered. Once the judges, media and the federal and provincial governments think that there is life beyond Panama case perhaps they can make an example out of the jirga that ordered yet another gang rape.
That the state apparatus has a very definite penchant for banning all accounts of Pakistanis by Pakistanis for Pakistanis that it believes are unflattering to the country — we everyday breathe a sigh of relief. For the powers-that-be have yet to prevent Pakistan’s media from reporting such crimes against the country’s women.  And there we shall leave it. We don’t want to give them any ideas.
Daily Times, July 29, 2017

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