Trigger Warning: Rape/Sexual Assault/Suicide.
Mukhtar Bibi, also known as Mukhtar Mai was 28 years old, living with her little family in Punjab Pakistan when her whole life changed instantly. Her brother, 12-year-old Shakur was accused of zina bil jabar (having an illicit affair) with a woman who was much older than him and belonged The Mastoi Tribe. This tribe was of a higher caste. They falsely accused him to hide the fact that Shakur had been physically and sexually abused by Mastoi men several times.
Mukhtar Bibi and her family knew that Shakur hadn’t done anything wrong, to clear his name, they travelled over to the local tribe council on June 22, 2002. The council had gathered in a mosque to hear them out.
When they arrived, the council didn’t want to negotiate for Shakur, they already found him guilty. They wanted to lure out Mukhtar Bibi. As punishment for Shakur’s alleged actions, the council ordered 4 armed men to rape Mukhtar as revenge.
Mukhtar was dragged away and raped. Later she was thrown out to her father and uncle barely clothed. They put a shawl around her and took her home.
“They know that a woman humiliated in that way has no other recourse except suicide. They don’t even need to use their weapons. Rape kills her.”
Mukhtar wanted to commit suicide too. In her village, it was known as the only way a woman would reclaim her “honour”. She begged her mother several times to buy her acid that she could drink but her mother said no. She wanted Mukhtar to fight this.
Mukhtar decided that her mother was right. They both travelled to the town next to their village that had a police station a week after her attack and filed a police report against the men. In July of 2002, 14 men were arrested. 4 of these men were those who had raped her, the other two were the ones who ordered the attack.
All six men were sentenced to death.
3 years later, the men appealed their convictions in The Lahore High Court and 5 of them were acquitted, the 6th man’s sentence was changed to life in prison. Mukhtar appealed to the Supreme Court. The verdict said that no injuries resulting from a sexual assault were visible, even though the witness statements said the exact opposite.
4 months later, the Supreme Court ordered that the original 14 men be arrested again only to end up holding up the Lahore High Courts decision later in 2011, acquitting 13 men again.
In 2019, she appealed to the court to overturn this decision yet she was dismissed. She waits for justice to be served – even today.
Mukhtar Bibi didn’t let this incident shut her down. She opened schools in her village. She started the Mukhtar Mai Women’s Welfare Organization to help and support the education of girls in Pakistan.
She’s an advocate for women’s rights. She has received several awards worldwide and stands as one of the strongest women this country has ever seen.
I have dedicated my life to women’s rights. Wherever a woman is oppressed, I will go there and fight for her rightsMukhtar Mai
This is a woman we all know. She’s someone who had evidence, witnesses, she never backed down and kept fighting. She’s spent half of her life going to the courts to get justice. Yet, she hasn’t gotten it yet. A case that should’ve been simple has been dragged on for almost two decades. The fact that she still hasn’t gotten justice shows us how weak our system really is and just how difficult it is to get justice for abuse. Will this ever change?