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Archive for Sunday, October 23, 2005

Pakistani rape victim leaves for U.S. to receive award

October 23, 2005

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— A Pakistani woman who won international fame but irked the government for speaking out about her gang rape left for the United States on Saturday to receive an award for her courage.

Mukhtar Mai, 36, has been declared Woman of the Year 2005 by Glamour, an American women's magazine. She's due to receive the award with a $20,000 cash prize Nov. 2 in New York.

Past winners include U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton and former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Mai braved social stigma by going public over her June 2002 assault, which was ordered by a village council in retaliation for her brother's alleged affair with a woman from a higher-caste family.

Her case attracted international attention, and using donations from well-wishers, she has since set up a school for girls in her rural community.

The legal case against her alleged attackers is still being heard in Pakistan's Supreme Court.

In June, Pakistan's President Gen. Pervez Musharraf barred Mai from traveling to the United States at the invitation of a rights group, fearing it would bring bad publicity to Pakistan, but later backtracked after Washington protested.

Last month, the Pakistani leader also got tangled in a controversy for reportedly telling a newspaper that many Pakistanis regard rape as a way for the victim to make money and get a visa to leave the country. Musharraf later denied saying that.

Mai left Saturday for the United States on a flight from the eastern city of Lahore. She said she had no plans to stay in America.

"I am a born Pakistani and prefer to live in my own country ... I am going to America to receive my award and will get back soon after," she said.

Mai said she will use the trip to collect donations for victims of this month's monster earthquake that killed tens of thousands of people in Pakistan.

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