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3 November 2005
Pakistani gang rape victim Mukhtar Mai has been honoured as Woman of the Year in a ceremony in Washington. The award was presented by Glamour magazine which praised Ms Mai for "her incredible courage and optimism in the face of terrible violence". She has donated her prize money - $20,000 - to charity.
Mukhtar Mai won widespread international support when she spoke out after being raped in 2002 allegedly on the order of a village council.
Ms Mai, 36, has said she will give $5,000 of her award money to victims of the 8 October earthquake in Pakistan. The rest will fund schools and a women"s crisis centre.
On Tuesday, she told a United States congressional hearing on human rights of her battle against "feudal lords" oppressing women in her homeland. She also said that ever since she had raised her voice for justice, her life had been made difficult. "My friends, my family and I have faced death threats," she said.
On Monday, Ms Mai had told an audience of rights activists through an interpreter: "I am fighting a fight against oppression, where women and the poor are oppressed... by feudal lords. "They have power and money, and all I have is you and your support. God willing, truth will have victory."
Ms Mai said her rape and the subsequent court battle would not force her out of her homeland. "I think that the fight can be fought only by living in Pakistan. You cannot fight by leaving."
Ms Mai"s trip to the US has been controversial. Earlier this year, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf banned her from travelling abroad because he feared her visit might "tarnish" Pakistan"s image. He rescinded the ban after criticism from US officials and rights activists.
Ms Mai has an appeal pending in the Pakistan"s Supreme Court against a high court order to free 13 men accused of involvement in her rape. Since her highly publicised rape three years ago, she has become an icon in the campaign for women"s justice in conservative Pakistan.
Critics of Pakistan"s judicial system and social systems say the Mukhtar Mai case is an example of appalling treatment often handed out to women, particularly in feudal, rural areas. Her rape was allegedly ordered by a village council as a punishment for a misdemeanour blamed on her brother.
(Published by BBC News, click on the link below for more details of Mukhtar Mai"s story).
by Glamour Magazine

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