Pakistani rape victim cited in human rights campaign

By M.R. Narayan Swamy, IANS

Kampala (Uganda) : A top Commonwealth official Friday praised a Pakistani woman who now fights for universal justice after being gang raped five years ago to emphasize the need to promote human rights.

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Outgoing Secretary General Don McKinnon also praised the National Human Rights Commission of India while addressing the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institutions.

“Some of you may have heard of a remarkable lady called Mukhtar Mai, a woman from the southern Punjabi village of Meerwala in Pakistan,” the former New Zealand foreign minister said.

“Five years ago, the reality for her was when she was gang raped by 14 men on the orders of her local village council, as a punishment for her brother’s alleged adultery.”

“In 2005, the Supreme Court suspended the acquittal of the men, and ordered a re-trial.”

“Mukhtar Mai now campaigns for the protection of human rights for all, especially in seeking justice for women in Pakistan. And her response is rhetoric based on reality.”

“She quotes Urdu poetry when she says: ‘Silence in the wake of injustice is no less than the injustice itself’,” McKinnon said.

In his speech, a day after the Commonwealth decided to suspend Pakistan for derailing democracy, McKinnon said the 53-nation grouping could never compromise on the principles of human rights.

He said the Indian National Human Rights Commission was “doing good work in educating people like magistrates, police officers and NGOs on the implementation of the Indian Human Rights Act”.

He also pointed out that the University of Maharashtra in Mumbai was training over 250 young people “using our Commonwealth human rights training model, which is now part of the curriculum”.

“Fundamental human rights are part of the cement that binds us,” he said. “Human rights are as universal as they are indivisible, and it is our Commonwealth task to ensure that they are kept that way.”