Mukhtaran Bibi, better known as “Mukhtar Mai,” made international headlines in 2002 after story of her gang rape became public. Mukhtar was not the first and unfortunately will not be the last woman to suffer such a fate; however what set her apart from other victims was her courage in fighting back. Mukhtar took all 6 of her aggressors to court – they were sentenced to death by a lower court however their case is now pending in Pakistan’s Supreme Court. Mukhtar’s bold and brave actions gave hope to rape victims all over the world. Since then Mukhtar has led a campaign to empower women, in 2005 she won Glamour Magazine’s Woman of the Year award and in 2006 she was invited to speak at the United Nations. She has since been a symbol of enduring strength for women’s rights, at least until now.
On March 15, 2009, Mukhtar married her ex-body guard Nasir Gabol. Under any other circumstances, this would be good news as rape victims in Pakistan mostly commit suicide and most never get married. Mukhtar’s husband however, was already married at the time he proposed. But Mukhtar says she married on “humanitarian grounds.”
When Gabol first proposed, Mukhtar refused because she did not want to ruin the first wife’s life. Gabol then threatened to divorce his first wife. In retaliation, Gabol’s two sisters, who were married to his wife’s brothers, were also threatened with divorce. Gabol threatened to commit suicide leading his wife and two sisters to plead with Mukhtar to marry him. Mukhtar finally accepted the proposal to save three marriages from being torn apart. Some say that Mukhtar has taken another bold step to encourage rape victims to continue on with their lives and has committed a heroic act in saving the marital lives of three women with her sacrifice. Others say the brave Mukhtar has taken a step backward in the fight for women’s rights in Pakistan.
Mukhtar sees herself as a peacemaker and before marriage, she made demands. Mukhtar required that Gabol transfer ownership of his ancestral home to his first wife and purchase her a plot of land in addition to monthly stipends that he is to pay of around $125. She also has refused to move in with him but he may visit her where she lives with her family whenever he wishes.
I really wish Mukhtar would have been able to achieve the “happily ever after” that all girls dream of. In an ideal world, Gabols first wife would have had the societal and financial means to leave her husband and Mukhtar would never have married this nutcase. In Mukhtar’s world however, that is not the case. Her story makes me admire how far she has brought the struggle for women in Pakistan but makes me realize how much further we still have to go.
Credit: Maheen Siddiqi, a 23-year-old Southern California native and a recent Cal State University, Fullerton graduate with a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in Human Communication Studies. Her passions are law, politics and social commentary. Contact her at Maheen AT minoritydreams DOT com.