Human Rights

Pakistan Court Frees Five in Notorious Rape Case

Pakistan's Supreme Court freed five men accused of gang-raping Mukhtar Mai, the woman who became a symbol of oppressed women in Pakistan. Mukhtar was raped in 2002 on orders of the village council in retribution for her younger brother's supposed affair with a woman from a rival tribe. Later police found that her brother had been molested and that the accusation against him had been a cover-up. Mukhtar became a symbol for human rights advocates when she spoke out against the crime. Initially 14 men were charged in 2002, and six were convicted and sentenced to death, but then in 2005 the Lahore High Court overturned five of the convictions and commuted one to life in prison. Now the supreme court has acquitted the five men based on discrepancies in Mukhtar's statements during the initial investigation. Human Rights Watch called the ruling "a setback for Mukhtar Mai, the broader struggle to end violence against women and the cause of an independent rights-respecting judiciary in Pakistan."