Pakistani Rape Victim and Women's Rights Leader Mukhtar Mai Denied Justice

Mukhtar Mai

If a decision made last week by the Pakistan Supreme Court is upheld, five men convicted of gang rape in 2002 will be released back to the village where the crime took place, and the life of an international women's rights leader will be in danger.

Nine years ago, Mukhtar Mai was ordered by a tribal council in Pakistan to be gang raped in her home village of Meerwala in retaliation for an adultery accusation. The accusation, made by a rival clan, claimed that Mai's then-12 year-old brother had sex with a woman from the higher-caste Mastoi tribe. Outside investigators would later find that her brother had been molested, and that the Mastoi were trying to cover it up.

Mukhtar Mai's rape case gained international attention when she refused to do what most Pakistani women would do in her position -- commit suicide. Instead, Mai waged a legal battle against the five men who had attacked her. She would then go on to form Mukhtar Mai Women's Welfare Organization, to support and educate Pakistani women and girls; and have her story retold in Nicholas Kristof's Half the Sky, as well as in an upcoming feature film.

According to the Aurat Foundation, nearly 1,000 women were raped in Pakistan last year, while 1,500 were murdered and 2,000 were abducted.

Human Rights Watch called on Pakistan's government to petition the full court to review the case and asked authorities to protect Mai, who now fears for her life. Human Rights called the case "one of the most important tests of women's rights in memory."

Mai, now 40, plans to file a petition against the acquittal in a few days.