For Love or Money…or Social Policy

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It’s not news that people occasionally get married for reasons other than love. But this still has to be a little unusual.

The story is that Mukhtar Mai, the Pakistani woman who was gang-raped a few years ago by order of her village council, has gotten married. After her attack, Mukhtar refused to remain silent, successfully challenged her rapists in court, and has become a crusader for women’s rights. She deserves to find love, right?

It’s not that simple, it turns out. In getting married, she becomes the second wife of her husband, who has begged/stalked her to marry him for years, tried to kill himself four months ago to convince her, and threatened to throw out his first wife if Mukhtar didn’t marry him. Sounds like a prince.

Mukhtar finally agreed to marry him with a few unusual conditions. As the New York Times reports, “It was her concern about [the first wife], Ms. Mukhtar said, that moved her to relent.” So Mukhtar has required her husband to take steps to provide some financial security and independence for his first wife, transferring ownership of his home to the woman, and giving her both land and a monthly stipend.

As for Mukhtar, she’s staying in her village and says her husband can come visit her. Not exactly the stuff of fairy tales. And yet, just as Mukhtar’s decision to speak out against her attackers helped lessen somewhat the stigma of being a rape victim, her husband’s courtship–however unhinged–further erases the cultural belief that rape renders a woman damaged and unwanted for life. So congrats, you two. I think.