Reading Group Guide
In The Name of Honor
Mukhtar Mai with Marie-Thérèse Cuny
translated by Linda Coverdale
In June of 2002, Mukhtaran Bibi, a young woman living in a small village in Pakistan was brought before her village council to plead forgiveness for a false charge against her young brother. In a shocking abuse of power, the council ordered her gang-raped by four men as retribution. Choosing not to kill herself, as many dishonored women would, she opted instead to fight back with the only weapon at her disposal - the truth. Speaking fearlessly to journalists and government officials, she was able to bring her attackers to trial and win a verdict that struck a blow against a barbaric tradition of violence towards women. Starting with money given her by the government, Bibi opened a school for both boys and girls in her native village, pouring her passion into educating those who would be otherwise powerless. She became Mukhtar Mai, "beloved older sister" to her students, and a hero to those who champion human rights throughout the world. Her struggles did not end there, however, and so here she tells her story, further empowering the women of Pakistan by continuing to spreading her truth.
1) Mai describes her shifting thoughts after the rape, from numb devastation and plans for suicide into determination for justice. What were the personal and cultural factors that led to her suicidal thoughts? What pulled her out of them? In what ways did Mai's experience take away her fear of the consequences of speaking out?
2) Throughout her account, Mai speaks passionately about the power that literacy holds. Is education something we take for granted in our culture? How could Mai's story have been different if she had been literate? In what ways is knowledge power?
3) Mai writes that at the time of her initial police interviews, she knew "absolutely nothing about the official justice reserved for wealthy and educated people." (Pg. 29) Does her culture treat justice as a right or a privilege? How does this differ from the mindset in the United States? How is her assumption of justice for the privileged complicated by the story of Dr. Shazia Khalid? (Pg. 125)
4) In describing her divorce, Mai attributes her freedoms to "stubbornness, the only weapon we women have against men." (Pg. 41) How did Mai use stubbornness to her advantage? Was this a characteristic she already held, or was it also fostered by her experience? How do you think the Western feminist movement was aided by women's "stubbornness"?
5) After the verdict is read in her trial, Mai says, "I can return to my village with my head high, and modestly covered with the traditional shawl."(Pg. 73) What does this statement tell us about Muslim feminism? Is it possible to have personal pride within cultural modesty?
6) What are the varied connotations of rape in Mai's society? How is the accusation used in relation to premarital sex and unwanted marriage? In what senses do those in power view sex as a threat? How does this relate to rape's use as a means of punishment?
7) In The Name of Honor describes Mukhtar Mai's two struggles, primarily against an oppressive society, but also against the limitations she had imposed upon herself. How does her personality evolve throughout the narrative, as she changes from Mukhtaran Bibi into Mukhtar Mai? What role does Naseem play in helping Mai become a more empowered individual? 8) Mai is accused of disloyalty to Pakistan because of her outspoken efforts to change her culture, yet she speaks passionately about her love for her home. Do you think Mai's advocacy proves or undermines her patriotism?
9) Mai comments that in her work with both girls and boys at her school, she has come to see that both genders are caught in the net of her society's attitudes towards women. In which ways are men enslaved by their culture? How does the school help to free them as well?
10) Pakistani activist Hina Jilani says in relations to Mai's story that "if the condition of women is improving a little, that doesn't have anything to do with the authorities. Any progress is due in large measure to civil society and to organizations supporting women's rights." (Pg. 140) What is your opinion of personal advocacy and activism? Has Mai's story changed your viewpoint or reinforced it?
Reading Group Tips * Find out more about the struggle for women's rights in Pakistan from an organization like Human Rights Watch. For information on how to help, visit http://hrw.org/campaigns/pakistan/index.htm, or the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan's website: http://www.hrcp.cjb.net
* For up to date information, as well as links to interviews and press coverage about Mukhtar Mai, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mukhtaran_Bibi
* Violence against women is a global issue. To find out more visit www.4woman.gov/violence.
* Mukhtar Mai becomes an agent of change in her community through promoting reading and education. To find out what you can do in your community and about literacy visit www.nifl.gov, www.theliteracysite.com, www.proliteracy.org, www.famlit.org, and www.rif.org.