Mukthar Mai, a Pakistani gang-rape survivor, walked the catwalk on Tuesday at Pakistan Fashion Week for designer Rozina Munib. The 42 year old was raped by a group of men in 2002. Her younger brother, 12 years old at the time, was falsely accused of having an affair with an older woman and the attack was ordered by the Punjab village council as a form of honor revenge.
This kind of "eye-for-an-eye" revenge is common in many rural parts of the middle east, many cases have been reported from rural villages in India over the last year. Sexual violence against women and "revenge rape" are very traditional in those small villages. "Women represent the 'honor' of their community and are viewed as family or community property," although rape is illegal, excluding marital rape (npr.org).
Normally, a gang-rape victim in Punjab would commit suicide to take shame away from her family, but Mai decided to speak up and fight back against her attackers, making her a "beacon of progress in Pakistan" (Telegraph). 5 out of 6 of her attackers were acquitted, and after taking her case to Supreme court, they chose not to reverse the verdict. This caused an international outcry on the behalf of victimized women around the world. Finally, this past June, a judge ordered that the original verdict be reviewed.
The designer said, "I have no intention of glamorising her into a model for the show. She will be wearing the kind of clothes that she would normally wear to a wedding. The purpose behind bringing her to Karachi and making her a part of my show is to tell her story so that it gives courage to other women."
Mai is now an author, an advocate for women's rights, and was Glamour magazine's Woman of the Year. She runs a sanctuary providing shelter to women and helps them in becoming self sufficient.
We can learn so much from women like Mai, and it makes our hearts so warm to hear the power and strength of female survivors being heard and acknowledged. This brave woman's story now has the opportunity to inspire and encourage others around the world. We can change the world, one step down the catwalk at a time.
Check back next week for more storied that inspire us here at STRITA xx
All photos from The Telegraph Online.