Women and Children

Travel ban on rape victim lifted
Mukhtar Mai at Islamabad press conference in March 2005

Mukhtar Mai decided to go public about the rape

BBC 06/16/2005
The Pakistan government has lifted a foreign travel ban on the victim of a high profile gang rape, Mukhtar Mai.

The ban has prevented Ms Mai from taking up an invitation from human rights group Amnesty International to travel to the United States.

Officials had said she had to stay in Pakistan until court cases around the rape were resolved. But critics said the move was a ploy intended to protect Pakistan's international image.

Brother's offence
The office of Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz issued a brief statement on Wednesday announcing that Ms Mai had been taken off the Exit Control List that names people who are not allowed out of Pakistan. Ms Mai has not yet responded to the new development and it is not clear if she still plans to travel to the US. Ms Mai was raped by several men in 2002, allegedly on the orders of a self-styled village council of influential feudal leaders.

The punishment was allegedly ordered because of a sexual indiscretion allegedly committed by her younger brother. The case continues to attract international attention. Twelve men are currently behind bars in connection with the case. In March the Lahore High Court ordered acquitted five men sentenced to death for the rape and reduced the sentence of another to life imprisonment. The court said there was insufficient evidence in the initial trial, which was conducted by an anti-terrorism court.

The government of the province of Punjab subsequently ordered the detention of 12 men originally implicated in the case. The Lahore High Court has now said they should be released.
Mai Multan protest
Pakistani rights groups say Ms Mai (left) has shown courage

Ms Mai said earlier this week that she had been kept under "virtual house arrest" in her home village. Officials said they were acting entirely in her interests by assigning several dozen police officers to guard her in her home village.

Non-government organisations and activists campaigning for women's rights say that the restrictions on Ms Mai's movements have reflected the pressure the government is putting on her. They say the government has shot itself in the foot by introducing the measures, because her case is well known internationally.

The government is fighting an appeal in the Supreme Court against the Lahore High Court overturning the convictions of the men sentenced to death for the gang rape.