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Sunday, 1 September, 2002, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
Gang rape victim welcomes verdict
The victim of alleged gang rape (left) with mother
Ms Mai (left) says God has given her justice
A Pakistani woman raped on the orders of a self-appointed village council has said she is satisfied with the death sentences handed down to six men involved in the assault.


If courts start giving decisions like this, I am sure rapes will be reduced, if not stopped totally

Mukhtar Mai
A special security court in the south of Punjab Province sentenced the men to death by hanging on Saturday.

Four were found guilty of rape. Two others, who sat on the tribal council, were judged to have abetted the crime.

The council had ordered Mukhtar Mai to be raped as a punishment for her family, after her brother was accused of having an affair with a woman from a more powerful tribe.

Human rights activists in Pakistan have also expressed satisfaction with the convictions.

But they say the government must now act on the issues brought up by this case, which provoked national outrage.

The chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Afrasiab Khattak, described the informal judicial system as feudal and barbaric.

'Justice'

The 30-year-old Ms Mai was not in court to hear the judge pass the death sentence on her rapists.

Some of the accused in custody
Clan influence remains high in rural Pakistan
Her father said that when she heard the news from a relative she was overcome.

Ms Mai told Reuters news agency by telephone: "God has provided justice to me.

"If courts start giving decisions like this, I am sure rapes will be reduced, if not stopped totally.

"I am satisfied with the decision."

Humiliation

The rape was ordered by a tribal "panchyat" or council in the village of Mirwali, near Muzaffargarh city, in June.

It took a week before it was even reported to police.

In many of Pakistan's remote areas, tribal councils, made up of community elders, still work like a lawful body, judging cases ranging from animal theft or tribal rivalry to murder.

Mukhtar Mai's brother, Abdul Shakoor, said the story of his affair was concocted to cover up the fact that he had been sodomised by three men earlier in the day and threatened to report the incident.

When Ms Mai appeared before the gathering from the rival tribe to ask for a pardon for her brother, council members decided she should be gang raped to punish her family.

After the attack she was forced to walk home, semi-naked.

Appeals

The brother whose reported affair with a girl from a 'higher' clan led to the gang rape
The brother said he was sodomised
The role played by the village council, which has no legal standing, has raised particular concerns.

The Human Rights Commission said the government had allowed this kind of informal justice system to flourish throughout Pakistan and it had to be controlled.

Activists say this case again illustrates the horrific abuse many women face in Pakistan - most of whom never see their attackers brought to justice.

Defence lawyers say they will launch an appeal against the verdicts.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Susannah Price
"This was a punishment for her brother's alleged affair"
See also:

01 Sep 02 | South Asia
03 Jul 02 | South Asia
27 Apr 01 | South Asia
02 May 02 | Country profiles
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