Documentation movie “Shame”
“Shame” is about Mukhtaran Mai and her shocking story that ends with much promise. In 2002, the 30-year-old woman from Meerwala, a remote Pakistani village, was sentenced by the tribal council to be raped by a group of men in retaliation for an alleged crime that her brother had committed. With no police presence in the village and with the feudal precedent of self-victimization or suicide, she musters the courage to travel to town to file a police case, in spite of death threats.
Her case attracts governmental and then international press and human rights attention, and results in her being praised with awards for bravery and travel abroad to speak, as well as being given a handsome amount of money with which she builds the village’s first school. I recommend this film not just for its sensitive treatment of the matter and the inspiring story of Mukhtaran Mai, but also because of the beautiful cinematography that paints, at times, a welcome and almost surrealistically dreamy veneer on a chilling episode.
In modern Pakistan, Ghulam Fareed lives a poor lifestyle in Meerwala along with his daughter, Mukhtaran Mai and son, Shaqoor. Meerwala is a village without any roads, schools, a Police Station, or even electricity. Girls’ marriages are arranged when they are barely 12 years old. During March, 2002, Shaqoor allegedly molests a girl from the Mashtoi family, who live next door. The local Panchayat meets and decides that Mukhtaran must also be molested by males of the Mashtoi family, accordingly she is raped by about 14 men.
Shunned, hurt, confused, devastated, she makes her way to the Police Station to file a report against this rape. This is where she will find out that it is not easy to find justice in a country that has been ruled by men and the military for eons, where the woman is still considered a possession – when she does well, she lives up to the family’s reputation, but when she does bad, she brings shame to the entire clan. Her persistence pays off, and with the intervention of two female politicians, she has the 14 arrested. Amidst threats made against her by the Mashtoi clan, she is provided 24 hours protection by the national guard. Shortly thereafter the Courts reached it’s decision: 8 of the men are set free, while 6 are sentenced to be hanged and fined 40,000 Pakistani Rupees.
The media’s attention is focused on Meerwala, and Pervez Musharaff’s government makes the most of it to improve conditions there. Mukhtaran is awarded 5 Lakh Rupees, which she uses to build a girls’ school; a road & a Police station manned by 4 constables is built, and electricity is provided. Then a school is built for males named as Ghulam Fareed Boys’ School. Ironically, while the government provides funding for the boys’ school, Mukhtaran herself pays for the salaries and maintenance of the girls’ school. When the accused appeal to the High Court, 5 of the 6 are freed, resulting in an uproar not only in Pakistan but also in the United States. Mukhtaran meets with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and has the 5 re-arrested. She is then invited to Spain. Thereafter, she is invited to visit the U.S., a visa is provided for her, but before she could travel, she is arrested by the Police under orders from Pervez Musharraff himself, so as not to publicly humiliate his country.
Mukhtaran disappears for several days, only to emerge later, admitting that she has been coerced to not visit the U.S.. Subsequently, she does visit the U.S. where is felicitated by Glamour Magazine, while the Times New York cites her as one of 100 the most influential people in the world. When she returns home to Meerwala, she is shocked to learn that a nine year old girl has been raped, and files a Police Complaint on her behalf. During the course of the four years of her trials, Mukhtaran has not only built and run a school for girls, albeit with some donations collected by U.S.-based Journalist Nicholas Kristof; a woman’s crisis center, but also a sense of security and well-being amongst the general population, especially women, in Meerwala. Add to that, a male student from the embittered Mashtoi family had also enrolled in the boys’ school. She is herself enrolled in the girls’ school, appropriately named after her, and hopes that by enlightening young minds she can make way for a better Pakistan. As of the end of 2006, the Pakistani Supreme is yet to decide the fate of the 6 accused in this incident. Written by rAjOo