|Mukhtaran Mai's courage|
in defying centuries-old rural customs of
repressing women has made her a role model
for many women in Pakistan
The ruling leaves just one of the initial 14 suspects in prison.
Mukhtaran Mai was attacked on the orders of a village council in Punjab province nine years ago as a punishment because her brother - who was 12 at the time - was judged to have offended the honour of a powerful clan by allegedly having an affair with one of its women.
Her brother was 12, dishonored a more powerful family, obviously by having a crush on one of their daughters. It does demonstrate ~ something of the customs in Islam ~ and that is that the women/girls are married off within families. That unless the boy was from a more powerful family, and something could be gained from the marriage ~ it would likely be a dishonor ~ as the child's husband is one of the cousins she is out in the yard playing with.
Also it is the Muslim tradition [or law] in some countries ~ to offer the girl or the woman ~ who has been raped two choices ~ she can either marry her rapist or seen him go to trial. But as a woman's worth is based on her marketability on marriage ~ she is now worth less. And many who lose their virginity before marriage turn to prostitution.
The average life of the Islamic woman is so far away from what we understand or would accept as normal. If she has become a symbol for oppressed women ~ it is against this archaic backdrop.
Mai, aged 30, was an illiterate villager at the time but the seamstress defied taboos and shot to global fame by speaking out about her ordeal and taking her attackers to court.
Mai had accused 14 men of being involved in raping her in a stable and in 2002, a court sentenced six of them to death while acquitting the others citing a lack of evidence.
But in an appeal, the Lahore High Court not only upheld the eight acquittals but also overturned five of the six convictions. The death penalty for the sixth man, Abdul Khaliq, was commuted to life in prison.
Police in Pakistan escort the 14 men accused of being involved in the gang-rape of Mai at an anti-terrorism court in Punjab province in 2002. All have now been exonerated apart from Abdul Khaliq, who will serve a life sentence
Her courage in defying centuries-old rural customs of repressing women won her human rights awards and made her a role model for many women in Pakistan.
Two years ago she married a police constable and she now runs a school for girls in her village with donations from the government and supporters at home and abroad.
Mai said she would neither flee her village nor the country.
'Life and death are in the hands of Allah ... I will not shut my school and other projects,' she said.
The group Human Rights Watch expressed dismay at the court decision, saying the attack on Mai was a 'crime that took place in full public view and the perpetrators were publicly identified'.
'Today's verdict by the Supreme Court of Pakistan on the Mukhtaran Mai case reflects poorly on the Supreme Court,' said Ali Dayan Hasan of the U.S.-based rights group.
He said Human Rights Watch was particularly concerned about Mai's safety and called upon on the government to ensure her protection.
'This is a setback for Mukhtaran Mai, the broader struggle to end violence against women and the cause of an independent, rights-respecting judiciary in Pakistan.'
Mai said the 14 men involved in her rape were: Faiz Bukhsh Mastoi, Ramzan Pachar, Ghulam Fareed Mastoi, Allah Ditta Mastoi, Hazoor Bakhsh, two men both named Fayyaz Hussain, Aslam, Nazar Hussain, Ghulam Qasim, Hafiz Rasool Bakhsh, Ghulam Hussain, Mohammad Khalil and Abdul Khaliq.
All have now been exonerated apart from Khaliq, who will serve a life sentence.
'I'm disappointed. Why was I made to wait for five years if this decision was to be given?' said a sobbing Mai in a telephone interview from her village in the eastern province of Punjab shortly after the court announced the decision.
'The accused can kill me and my family when they return home,' she added.
'I have lost faith in the courts, and now I am leaving my case to the court of God. I am sure God will punish those who molested me.'
In a further development, the Pakistan Interior Ministry today announced it would provide Mai with security.