The Pakistani woman whose fight for justice following a gang rape shot her to international fame has expressed shock at a Supreme Court ruling acquitting five men accused of the crime, RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal reports.
Mukhtar Mai was gang-raped in 2002 on the orders of a Punjab village assembly of elders, or Panchayat, to settle an honor dispute after her younger brother was accused of a relationship with a woman from a powerful family in the village.
Her subsequent fight to bring her attackers to justice attracted widespread media attention and put a spotlight on the plight of women in Pakistan.
On April 21, the Supreme Court upheld the decision of a lower court that acquitted five men accused in the crime and sentenced a sixth to life imprisonment. Eight other men initially accused of the crime were acquitted in a previous court ruling.
In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL in Islamabad today, Mai described the court decision as disappointing.
"I was shocked over the decision," she said. "I was confident the court would decide in my favor. I don't trust the judiciary any more. I no longer believe that the judiciary is different than the police."
Asked about whether she planned to continue in her fight for justice, Mai said she couldn't see any way to do so following the Supreme Court decision.
Mai had appealed to the Supreme Court in 2005, challenging the decision of a local court that acquitted the five accused.
She said the Supreme Court kept her waiting for five years, but could not provide her justice.
"Tell me [what to do now]," she said. "If I send an application to the president [of Pakistan], he will send it back to them [Supreme Court judges]. I need justice, tell me which court in Pakistan can provide justice to me."
Helping The Poor
Mai, who hails from the small village of Meerwala in southern Punjab, expressed her gratitude to the human rights organizations, media, and people in her neighborhood who she said have supported her throughout.
Mai now runs a school that she opened for the children of poor people in her village and she supervises several other small projects.
Asked about her social activities, Mai said she was struggling to bring positive changes in the lives of poor people.
"I established a school in 2002 and only four girls were initially admitted there. But now the number has mounted to 650," Mai said.
"And today is the third day that some girls of the same school have been admitted to college [after completing their studies at the school]. This is a big change, because here [in the village] there were no literate people."