Words Fail Me

Well. What a lovely story.

Ms Bibi was catapulted to world attention after a panchayat, or tribal council, at the remote Punjabi village of Meerwala in June 2002. Her 12-year-old brother was accused of having an affair with a woman from the higher-caste Mastoi tribe. In punishment, the elders ordered that Mukhtaran be raped. As several hundred people watched, four men dragged her screaming through a cotton field. Pushing her into a mud-walled house, they assaulted her for more than an hour.

Is that pretty or what. It has all the ingredients, doesn’t it. Nothing left out. A higher-caste tribe. The elders. Punishment of A for something B is accused of doing. Rape as punishment, rape as judicial (sort of) punishment, rape as something that elders order to be done, rape as something that a tribal council of old men order to be done to a young woman. Several hundred people (some of them no doubt well known, neighbours) watch. Several hundred people watch a young woman dragged screaming through a field by four men, to be raped, on the orders of the elders of the tribal council.

“Honour” killings and punishments are usually sanctioned through the panchayat system, which has no legal standing but is still prevalent in many rural towns. Last week elders in another Punjabi village ordered that a two-year-old girl be married to a man 33 years her senior. The betrothal was in compensation for an adulterous affair committed by her uncle.

And the brother was framed anyway. In fact he was assaulted himself.

According to the prosecution, the Meerwala council ordered the gang rape of Mukhtar Mai, then 30, as punishment for the alleged illicit sexual relations of her brother Shakoor with a woman from the rival Mastoi tribe. It was later revealed that he had been molested by Mastoi men who tried to conceal it by accusing him of illicit relations with a Mastoi woman. The Mastoi demanded revenge. That was delivered when the council approved the rape of Ms. Mukhtar.

Paul Anderson in Islamabad.

The BBC’s Paul Anderson in Islamabad says most women involved in attacks against them which are designed to restore the slighted honour of a family, clan or tribe, accept their fate, believing that tribal or feudal leaders are too powerful to resist and that the police and judicial systems are stacked against them. The statement said the reason for the increasing violence against women in Pakistan was the fact that men, guilty of assaulting them, were rarely punished. Hundreds of women are killed or injured in honour attacks each year.

Nothing to add.

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