Film calls Mukhtaran Mai 'Pakistan's Rosa Parks'
May 17, 2007 - 5:54:24 PM

New York/Islamabad, May 17 - Pakistan's gang rape victim Mukhtaran Mai has been called her country's 'Rosa Parks' in a just-released documentary film, comparing her to the American civil rights leader.

Rosa Parks was an African-American civil rights activist, who refused to take her 'designated' seat on a segregated bus in Alabama in 1955, ushering in a new era of the civil rights movement in the US.

The documentary 'Shame' directed by Canada-born Muhammad Ali Naqvi, was premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. It chronicles the events in Mai's life after June 22, 2002, the day she was gang raped by six people.

A tribal court in Pakistan ordered it as retribution for an alleged rape by her 12-year-old brother of a female relative of the men who carried out the gang rape.

With the help of a local imam and against the wishes of her family, Mai filed a police report that started her on the first steps of her long journey towards justice.

A local press reporter ran her story, which quickly made national and international headlines. The six men were then rounded up and arrested. But they are on bail, and Mai has lamented that justice has not been done to her.

Her case was later taken up by American human rights bodies. Her presence in the US at the same time when President Pervez Musharraf was at the United Nations, embarrassed the latter.

Musharraf reacted to media queries saying that it had become 'fashionable' for some women in Pakistan to protest about being raped to get foreign citizenship.

Five years hence, Mai remains a Pakistani national, doing social work from her village home in Punjab. She has set up schools and helps the poor.

But she continues to be threatened by her tormentors and even some people in the government, says Mai, who is considered an icon of women's struggle in Pakistan.

Naqvi, who grew up in the US and Pakistan, was in Pakistan working on his first documentary when the news broke. 'There were so many people interested in learning more about her,' he said.

Initially, he had no plans to document her story, but after their meeting he was 'astonished by her unwavering conviction in the face of adversity,' Daily Times reported.

Since the traumatic event unfolded, Mai has been victimised by her community, the police and other government officials. After her testimony at the trial, the court handed down death sentences to her tormentors.

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