Mukhtar Mai (C) receives a standing ovation as she takes the stage following a performance of the opera “Thumbprint,” at the Roy and Edna Disney/Calarts Theater. Photograph: (AFP)
But while the opera ends with Mukhtar Mai's attackers sentenced to death, in real life, the rapists were acquitted by a Pakistani court
Mukhtar Mai, who was raped by a group of men fifteen years back in her village in Pakistan, watched her ordeal being played out in an opera in the United States.
"I was very emotional when I first started watching it and began reliving the incident in my mind," Mai, 37, told AFP on Friday, after attending the Los Angeles premiere of "Thumbprint."
"But then as the opera progressed, it became easier to watch and I felt more courage," she said in Urdu, speaking through a translator.
"Thumbprint" made its debut in New York in 2014 but Mai was watching the opera inspired from her life for the first time.
The opera is about how Mai took his rapists to court, a highly unusual move by a woman in a male-dominated society.
But while the opera ends with her attackers sentenced to death, in real life, the rapists were acquitted by a Pakistani court.
"My rapists live across from my house and I try not to cross paths with them," said Mai, who used compensation money from her case to start several schools and a women's shelter in her village. "When I walk past, they taunt me and make catcalls."
The village council was in cahoots with the rapists. It had allowed the men to rape Mai because her 12-year-old brother was falsely accused of having an illicit affair with a woman from the dominant clan in the village.
The opera has been composed by Kamala Sankaram and librettist Susan Yankowitz.