Sunday, March 07, 2010

"In the Name of Honor" is an important book that deserves to be read

Mukhtar Mai’s book In the Name of Honor: A Memoir is on my list of non-fiction books every woman should read and also counts towards the Women Unbound Challenge.

It is the story of Muktar Mai, a poor, uneducated peasant woman from the small village of Meerwala, Pakistan. Her life is turned upside down when she is gang-raped on the order of a council of elders as punishment for her brother’s alleged affair with a woman of a higher clan. Instead of committing suicide, as many Pakistani rape victims do, Mukhtar Mai decides to fight for justice and report the incident to the police. She experiences opposition (the police are controlled by the upper castes) and it was not until her story was picked up by the media that an investigation was conducted and her attackers were arrested. Ultimately, she was awarded the equivalent of 8,500 U.S. dollars which she used along with international donations to start the first school for girls in her village. Her goal is to ensure that future generations do not suffer, as she had, from illiteracy.

For me, this book was eye opening. Prior to reading, I had known Pakistani women were mostly uneducated and had few rights, but I had no idea barbaric practices such as “Honor Crimes” were still in existence. Mukhtar Mai informs us:

A woman is nothing more than an object of exchange, from birth to marriage. According to custom she has no rights.
Naseem says we’re less important than goats, or even worse, less important than the slippers a man throws away when he decides they are worn out.

I admire her extraordinary courage and strength:
When I begin this journey into the legal system, a path from which there is no turning back, I’m hampered by my illiteracy and my status as a woman. Aside from my family, I have only one strength to call upon: my outrage.”
She was fortunate to have been born into a family whose men supported her; without it she would never have been able to seek justice:
Her father and her imam and her uncles supported her through the worst of it. They encouraged her to seek legal redress and their encouragement wrought a miracle beyond their imagining. Their tribeswoman — daughter, niece, cousin — became an international heroine.
In the Name of Honor is a short book that can be a bit dry at times, but is an important book that deserves to be read. Not to mention the fact that Mukhtar’s case against her attackers remains pending.


  1. wow. You are right. SOunds like a MUST READ. Thank you!

  2. I really enjoyed reading that book as well. It was a quick read and the writing was not complex, but it carries such an important message.