|Education important to stop rape, victim says
A Pakistani gang rape victim who became an international icon for daring to stand up to her attackers insists education is the key to ending the oppression of women in her country.
"Education is really most important,'' Mukhtar Mai, who has founded several schools in Pakistan since her ordeal over a decade ago, told AFP in an interview on the sidelines of a human rights summit in Geneva this week.
Mai, who is unsure of her exact age but thinks she is "around 40'', should know.
After she was brutally gang raped in June 2002, the police she turned to for help "wrote whatever they wanted'' in their report and got her to sign with a thumb-print.
She had no way of verifying that they gave an accurate account of her grim story. She was illiterate.
A village council had ordered the gang rape as punishment after her 12-year-old brother was accused -- wrongly, according to a later investigation -- of having illicit relations with a woman from a rival tribe.
According to tradition, Mai should have killed herself or at least run away to protect her family's honour, but she did neither.
She took her attackers to court and used the compensation money she received to start her first school for girls, becoming in the process an inspirational figure who has spurred other victims to choose the same route.
"I feel really proud that because of me, other women don't run away or commit suicide, but instead go to the police or to court,'' she said, speaking through an interpreter.
Mai acknowledges that she at first had planned to follow tradition and take her own life.
"I got a threat from those people who physically abused me and they said that if I went to the police they would kill me,'' she said. "My intention was that I would go to police so that they could kill me and I would leave this world.''
Before that could happen though, she met some "highly educated'' people who convinced her she would be better off "doing something for other people, so this didn't happen again, than dying.''