Sad sex stories

I have a great deal of admiration for Nicholas Kristof, a New York Times columnist who reports on a wide range of global health, development, and human rights issues around the world.  In the past several days, he has released two columns focused on one of the most horrifying features of today’s world: sex slavery.

The following short short video, featuring Kristof’s interview with former slave and current anti-trafficking activist Somaly Mam, provides some useful background for the columns:

In his December 31 column, “The Evil Behind the Smiles,” Kristof writes about his conversations with Sina Vann, a Vietnamese girl who, at the age of 13, was kidnapped and taken to Cambodia, where “she was locked on the upper floors of a nice hotel and offered to Western men and wealthy Cambodians. She said she was beaten ferociously to force her to smile and act seductive.”  Protest led to torture: electric shocks or time spent locked in a coffin full of biting ants.

In his January 3 column, “If This Isn’t Slavery, What Is?“, Kristof tells the story of Long Pross, another girl who was kidnapped, forced into sex slavery, and grievously abused.  Pross’s suffering is written on her face: “Glance at Pross from her left, and she looks like a normal, fun-loving girl, with a pretty face and a joyous smile. Then move around, and you see where her brothel owner gouged out her right eye.”  Today, Pross is beginning to recover from her ordeal, with the help and care of Sina Vann, who has joined the ranks of the anti-trafficking activists who saved her from her own enslavement.

Too many girls remain trapped in the life Sina and Pross escaped.  They are slaves.  In Kristof’s words:

Sex trafficking is truly the 21st century’s version of slavery. One of the differences from 19th-century slavery is that many of these modern slaves will die of AIDS by their late 20s.  […]  The abolitionist cause simply hasn’t been completed as long as 14-year-old girls are being jolted with electric shocks — right now, as you read this — to make them smile before oblivious tourists.

Kristof’s columns are supplemented by a blog post, “Your comments on my Sunday column,” which addresses objections raised by readers, such as: “Most of customers in places like Cambodia are locals, not Westerners” (true, Kristof says, though tourists are a major factor); “It’s just as bad in the U.S.” (not so, Kristof argues); and “Girls in Asia are happy to sell themselves to earn some money; there’s no force involved” (Kristof calls this “a delusion perpetuated by male customers who flatter themselves”).

I highly recommend the short video, “The Face of Slavery,” that accompanies Kristof’s Jan. 3 column.  The haunting sight of the beautiful, maimed Pross bravely telling her story, weeping as Sina gently strokes her hair, says more than words can hope to tell about this issue.

I have to admit that I only just started paying attention to this issue.  I don’t know that much, but I know that it’s heartbreaking, evil.  It is related to AIDS, and — God knows — it’s something to be addressed by faith, so I feel free to bring it up here.  I expect to write more about this soon.

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~ by h.e.g. on January 5, 2009.

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