Top critical review
So Sad, But Could Have Been More
January 29, 2010
The plight of Mukhtaran Bibi was so touching. She was an innocent woman, gang raped by order of the tribal council for a supposed rape committed by her 12 year-old brother.
I'm sorry that it did not move me as much as it could have. Most of the book deals with the justice system and trials after the gang rape, whereas I'd have been more interested in her life story up to and including the life altering event. The trials themselves are a mockery, because we know that they would not have occurred had she not received international attention. They drag on and on through most of the book and the ending is not too surprising. I applaud Mukhtar for standing up to the men, which was courageous of her considering her circumstances. However, I would like to have read more about how she lived her life, the culture that brought her to the point of no return.
Some of what Mukhtar reports, I find difficult to believe. For instance, long after supposedly being raped by the young boy, Salma is examined by doctors. The doctors somehow determined she was sexually active for three years and her last sexual relation occurred earlier than the presumed date of the rape. The boy had a DNA test, long after any specimens could be collected from Salma, and it was determined he did not rape Salma. I wonder if the doctors were incompetent, as even Mukhtar knew it was too late for medical exams.
Although Mukhtar fights for the rights of the women so dominated by men that they are kept completely ignorant of the village happenings, she is a product of her culture. She misplaces her animosity, demonizing Salma. "Girls are supposed to keep their eyes modestly downcast, but Salma -- she does whatever she wants. She's not afraid of being looked at, and she even makes sure that she is!" Salma is likely just a pawn in the political dealings of men, much like Mukhtar explains the role of women in the rest of the book. Mukhtar makes many allegations against Salma, but Salma did not rape Mukhtar. It was explained that her allegations that got Mukhtar raped were crafted for political reasons, an argument over land -- not something women are allowed to be involved in. Why blame the woman for what the men have done?
. . . and so I find myself not as captivated by the story as I had hoped.