Pakistani Village of Brutal Rape Elects 2 Women
Mukhtar Mai, infamous victim of a Pakistani gang rape, went door to door last week in her village encouraging women to go vote. Two housewives from her village of Meerwala were elected to district council over the weekend.
“Mukhtar Mai, victim of a gang rape, sheds tears after a court’s decision in Multan, Pakistan on Thursday, March 3, 2005. Last week the women of a Pakistani village infamous for a gang rape did something that gave the victim, Mukhtar Mai, hope for the future. They voted! (AP)
Wrapped in a shawl she embroidered herself and wearing traditional shalwar kameez, a baggy tunic and trousers, Ms Mai was jubilant as she anticipated the election of two housewives from her village of Meerwala to a district council.
“I hope these women will help resolve problems of all women. This can only be done if women are fully empowered,” said Ms Mai, who caused a storm of bad publicity for Pakistan and became an international symbol for women’s rights after speaking out over her gang rape ordeal three years ago.
The elections aim to give women a greater say by reserving them seats in representative bodies.
Wrapped in a shawl embroidered by herself and wearing traditional shalwar kameez, a baggy shirt and trousers, Mai was jubilant as she anticipated the election of two housewives from Meerwala to a district council.
“I hope these women will help resolve problems of all women. This can only be done if women are fully empowered,” said Mai.
Pakistan is in the midst of an exercise in grassroots democracy that is also aimed at giving women a greater say by reserving them seats in representative bodies.
The first phase of elections for district councils was held on August 19 when 53 of the country’s 110 districts voted. The remaining districts will cast their ballots on Thursday.
Turnout was put around 50 percent in the first round, but among women it was less, ranging from 43 percent in populous Punjab province to 16 percent in the NWFP, where there have been allegations that women were barred from casting their ballots in some constituencies.
A general who came to power following a bloodless military coup six years ago, President Pervez Musharraf’s democratic credentials are often criticised, but he is credited with reserving 33 percent of seats for women in local and provincial assemblies. “Creating space for women, peasants and labourers is one of the positive aspects of these elections,” Khawar Mumtaz, a Lahore-based activist for women’s rights.
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