Pakistani Christian women pray during the Eastern mass at St Anthony’s Church in Lahore, Pakistan
Rights group urges Pakistan to push gang rape case Rape victim fears silence after acquittal

MEERAWALI, Pakistan, April 24, (Agencies): A Pakistani woman who was gang-raped and became a human rights campaigner says she worries other women will not speak out after Pakistan’s highest court upheld her alleged attackers’ acquittals.
Mukhtaran Mai was allegedly gang-raped in 2002 to settle a matter of village honour. Unlike most rape victims in Pakistan, who rarely speak up, she filed a criminal case against 14 men. Six were convicted and sentenced to death later that year.

But the Lahore High court later acquitted five and commuted one sentence to life in prison in 2005. On Thursday, Pakistan’s Supreme Court upheld the Lahore court’s decision.
She said the verdict could prevent other women from speaking out against Pakistan’s culture of punishing women through violence, mutilation and sexual assault.
“I feel now women will not speak out,” she told Reuters. “They will stay in their homes ... Other women will not speak out because people in their area will look on them badly and they will not get justice.”
But, she said, “it becomes like a chain — if one woman gets justice, then the others will”.
Pakistani women rarely speak out after violent assault or rape, fearing the shame it will bring on them and their families. Her decision to speak out has earned her widespread recognition. She was named Glamour magazine’s 2005 woman of the year and her autobiography at one point was the number three bestseller in France.

The ruling by Pakistan’s Supreme Court means all but one of the 14 men charged with attacking her in 2002 could soon be free, allowing them to return to the village of Meerawali in southern Punjab where Mai lives.
“I am frightened the men will come back to this area and that I will be killed,” Mai, 39, said.”
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch called Friday on Pakistan’s government to seek a review of the acquittal of five men accused of gang raping a woman in order to punish her brother.
Human Rights Watch called on Pakistan’s government to petition the full court to review the case and asked authorities to protect Mai, who has said that she fears for her life after her unusual decision to speak out.
Brad Adams, the Asia director of the New York-based rights group, said Pakistan should send a clear signal on women’s rights and to make clear that local councils cannot take the law into their own hands.
“The failure to ensure justice in what by all accounts was a straightforward prosecution shows the justice system’s appalling disregard for women’s rights,” he said in a statement.

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