Wednesday, June 22, 2005

How Mukhtaran Bibi got her passport back

Mukhtaran Bibi's story -- the story of an extraordinary woman who had the courage to stand up against a society that condemned her to be gang-raped and left her to die (see here and here for my previous posts) -- just got a little better. It is now being reported (see here) that the Pakistani government will return her passport. Although this means that she'll be free to leave Pakistan and travel to the U.S., she has said that he has no immediate plans to do so.

For Nicholas Kristof's most recent column on Ms. Mukhtaran, see here. Her story is, of course, an incredible one, and it seems that it may just end happily. But as Kristof notes, there are too many more just like her in Pakistan:
[M]ost victims in Pakistan are on their own. Earlier this year, for example, police reported that a village council had punished a man for having an affair by ordering his 2-year-old niece to be given in marriage to a 40-year-old man.

In another case this year, an 11-year-girl named Nazan was rescued from her husband's family, which beat her, broke her arm and strung her from the ceiling because she didn't work hard enough.

Then there are Pakistan's hudood laws, which have been used to imprison thousands of women who report rapes. If rape victims cannot provide four male witnesses to the crime, they risk being whipped for adultery, since they acknowledge illicit sex and cannot prove rape.

When a group of middle-class Pakistani women demonstrated last month for equal rights in Lahore, police clubbed them and dragged them to police stations...

And Kristof concludes with a valid comparison:
I've heard from Pakistanis who, while horrified by honor killings and rapes, are embarrassed that it is the barbarism in Pakistan that gets headlines abroad. A word to those people: I understand your defensiveness, for we Americans feel the same about Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. But rooting out brutality is a better strategy than covering it up, and any nation should be proud to produce someone like Ms. Mukhtaran.

This is where Ms. Mukhtaran's story needs to be more than just a gripping individual drama with a feel-good ending. She is an example of courage andperseverancee, to be sure, but her story has also brought international attention to the plight of so many other Pakistani women. Although much of our attention has been on this one woman, and rightly so, we also need to remember those other horrors, lest we allow one success to elicit complacency. Awareness, after all, may lead to further action, and other women like Mukhtaran Bibi may yet be saved.

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