Salman Rushdie writes in the New Duranty Times, with thanks to all who sent this in.
IN honor-and-shame cultures like those of India and Pakistan, male honor resides in the sexual probity of women, and the “shaming” of women dishonors all men. So it is that five men of Pakistan’s powerful Mastoi tribe were disgracefully acquitted of raping a villager named Mukhtar Mai three years ago. Theirs was an “honor rape,” intended to punish a relative of Ms. Mukhtar for having been seen with a Matsoi woman. The acquittals have now been suspended by the Pakistan Supreme Court, and there is finally a chance that this courageous woman may gain some measure of redress for her violation.
Pakistan, however, has little to be proud of. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says that there were 320 reported rapes in the first nine months of last year, and 350 reported gang rapes in the same period. The number of unreported rapes is believed to be much larger. The victim pressed charges in only one-third of the reported cases, and a mere 39 arrests were made. The use of rape in tribal disputes has become, one might say, normal. And the belief that a raped woman’s best recourse is to kill herself remains widespread and deeply ingrained.
For every Mukhtar Mai there are dozens of such suicides. Nor is courage any guarantee of getting justice, as the case of Shazia Khalid shows. Dr. Khalid was raped last year in the province of Baluchistan by security personnel at the hospital where she worked. A Pakistani tribunal failed to convict anyone of the crime.
Dr. Khalid says that she was subsequently “threatened so many times” that she was forced to flee Pakistan. “I was hounded out,” she says, expressing dissatisfaction that the government neither brought her attackers to justice nor protected her from the threats that followed.
That is the same government, led by President Pervez Musharraf, that confiscated Mukhtar Mai’s passport because it feared she would go abroad and say things that would bring Pakistan into disrepute; and it is the same government that has allied with the West in the war on terrorism, but seems quite prepared to allow a war of sexual terror to be waged against its female citizens…
Read it all.