Mukhtar Gets Married


Because her brother was accused of having an affair, Mukhtar Mai was gang raped on the streets of her Pakistani village in 2002 as tribally sanctioned punishment. Instead of killing herself in shame, as is often done, Munkhtar, who also goes as Mukhtaran Bibi, took her attackers to court. She used the money she received from damages to open schools in order to educate women—and let other victims of rape find safety and sanctuary inside its walls. She wrote an autobiography that became an international bestseller. And last week, she got married—just another blow she has dealt to the social stigma surrounding rape victims in conservative Muslim countries.

What’s particularly interesting about the story isn’t necessarily the exhaustive list of humanitarian deeds that prompted Nicholas Kristof to compare her to a young Gandhi and Martin Luther King, but the way in which she’s incorporating seemingly liberated ideals into traditional Pakistani life.

Mukhtar, 37, married Nasir Abbas Gabol, a 30-year-old constable who was assigned to protect her from her attacker’s family during the rape trial, becoming his second wife. According to the New York Times, Gabol was quite persistant—and with the help of his wife and family, quite persuasive.

“Four months ago, [Mr. Gabol] tried to kill himself by taking sleeping pills. ‘The morning after he attempted suicide, his wife and parents met my parents but I still refused,’ Ms. Mukhtar said. Mr. Gabol then threatened to divorce his first wife, Shumaila. Ms. Shumaila, along with Mr. Gabol’s parents and sisters, tried to talk Ms. Mukhtar into marrying him, taking on the status of second wife. In Pakistan, a man can legally have up to four wives.”

Though multiple wives are customary in the culture, Mukhtar was apprehensive during the six-year courtship about the effect it would have on Shumalia.

“I am a woman and can understand the pain and difficulties faced by another woman,” she told the Times. “She is a good woman.”

However Mukhtar relented, and the two were finally married—with a couple of conditions. “He had to transfer the ownership of his ancestral house to his first wife, agree to give her a plot of land and a monthly stipend of roughly $125.” So Mukhtar will continue to live in her village of Meerwala, and her new husband can visit from his village whenever he “finds it convenient.”

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  • invalid-0

    I admire this woman’s strength! She stood up to her rapists in court, refused to let society to define her worth and basically told them she would succeed no matter what, that they couldn’t hold her down. Bravo!

  • invalid-0

    What’s interesting about this article is that it was written for a pro-choice feminist website, yet the particulars surrounding Mukhtar’s marriage are conveniently ignored. Now, as a Christian sympathetic to Muslim cultural traditions, I can understand the dynamics of this case. Frankly, it’s progress that she’s getting married at all, one can well be justified in saying, and I understand the socio-economic reasoning behind polygamy. But for self-described women’s rights advocates to blatantly ignore such an obvious feminist concern is not only telling but amusing as well. It’s true what I heard once long ago—everything’s political. You can’t bear to criticize your poster child in the way that fundamentalist Mormons, for example, are ridiculed here in the U.S. with uncritical, knee-jerk reactionism. They also believe in polygamy, and it is hard to imagine you reporting on a Susannah Richards of Silver Springs, Utah in just the same cool, detached manner.

    If I admit to being sympathetic to Mukhtar’s choice—and believe me I am—then why am I upset that you seem similarly complacent about the whole situation? First of all, because your silence implies not complacence but inconsistency. Let’s level with one another, shall we? You feminists waste no time in blasting Evangelicals and ‘fundies’ to pieces over much smaller issues, yet when the nascent Pakistani feminist Mukhtar appears to be willingly entering into a relationship which is undergirded by a nakedly ultra-patriarchal ethos, you are incidentally at a loss for words?! In fact, there IS a correct way to address her actions without betraying your ideals, but the fact that you do not pursue this shows me that you either don’t know how to or have chosen to be silent so as not to tarnish Mukhtar’s status as a feminist crusader (jihadiya?) of sorts. Be it due to ignorance or hypocrisy, your silence is loudly revealing.

  • invalid-0

    You haven’t been paying attention. We don’t pick on the women of the FLDS either, we just think the SYSTEM is corrupt.

  • invalid-0

    You are forgetting what feminism is all about, choice. SHE chose to enter that marriage unlike the young girls in FLDS. It isn’t being hypocritical at all, we are celebrating this woman’s personal strength, standing up for herself and choice,nothing less.

  • invalid-0

    1)Poly marriage is against the law in the US. 2) Children being married by decree is child abuse, also against the law in the US. 3)I wish her choice had been different-it sounds like an act of compassion rather than “love”. 4) I wish poly marriage was illegal there too-and if it is legal then it should cut both ways-why can’t she have a couple of husbands?
    I am a feminist, and her action to bring her rapists to justice make her a hero to anyone, man or woman, who believes that rape is, in fact, a horrible crime. No matter what she does with her life from now on-she will stand forever as a light in a very dark tunnel.