Saturday, July 26, 2008

Book Review: In the name of honour

“In the Name of Honour” is an autobiography of Pakistani lady Mukhtar Mail. This book narrates her path from being a rape victim to becoming a social activist.

Mukhtar Mai is a resident of Meerwala village, situated in Punjab region of Pakistan. Through this book, she tells us her story of a brutal and soul crashing rape and her consequential fight for justice. She was gang raped by the members of higher caste as per the instruction of the tribal council of their village in order to “punish” their family for the supposed “crime” that her kid brother had committed. Her thirteen year old brother was found “talking” to a lady of higher cast which hampered their “honour”. To regain their lost honour and to impose their supremacy, they decide to teach Mukhtar’s family a lesson by raping her.

Most readers will find the above stated reason of the rape shocking and unbelievable. That’s because we belong to a civilised society governed by law and order. But, as you progress through the book, you get insights of the world of rampant illiteracy, poverty and tribal laws which in turn are influenced by rich and upper cast families.

Mukhtar tells us the horrific realities of her society where crimes against women are very widespread because of the medieval Islamic laws. She gives us a true picture of Pakistani society where being born as a woman is indeed a crime. Women are not considered human out there and that’s why are denied basic human rights. They are just properties of their families with which they attach “honour” and use them for their trivial disputes and revenges. This “honour” is nothing but an imaginary pride evolved from a fake ego. In this world, “honour” and crimes are bigger concerns than literacy and development.

In Pakistan, a woman has to have four male eye witnesses to prove a rape! This must be the most absurd criminal law in entire world. If there are four witnesses present; a rape would never be committed in the first place. Such laws add to the plight of Pakistani women who are anyways incapacitated by illiteracy and punishing social customs. The only option left to them after rape is committing suicide while the rapists live free and unaffected. Honour crimes are hardly punished in Pakistan. In fact, they are not even considered crime.
This is clearly not a civilised society. My heard bleeds all the Pakistani and Muslim women who are victims of brutal violence.

Mukhtar displays remarkable courage and copes with horrific mental, physical torture. She feels she has nothing to lose after the brutal crime and decides to punish her criminals who tormented her body as well as her soul.

In her journey of justice, she transforms herself from a docile woman to a well aware, strong social activist. Mukhtar chooses path of justice instead of suicide. Her dear friend Naseem helps her in her battle for justice. Her case creates furore in Pakistan as well as international community. After long and trying trials with judiciary system, she finally gets the justice; thanks to the worldwide media and NGOs. Her criminals are convicted. From the compensation money, she starts a school for girls in her village. She also provides helping hand to Pakistani women who have been subjected to violence. She chooses to live in her country despite threats to her life. Her dream is to create a society in her country where gender equality exists.

This book is a must real for all the women, no matter which part of world you live in or which religion you follow. The story of Mukhtar Mai is an inspiration and ray of hope to all the women who are victims of crime.