Nicholas Kristof on rescuing children from brothels

Nicholas Kristof is a longtime champion of women’s rights, and protecting children from prostitution, especially in Asia. He’s done amazing work with Sheryl WuDunn in co-authoring Half the Sky, and even rescuing children from brothels himself.
Along with Norma Ramos, I was surprised to see the word “voluntary” in his editorial below…I think he probably meant ‘compelled less by violent pimps than by violent parents, sexism and poverty ‘. I’m quoting Norma’s response below:

Nicholas Kristof’s Op-Ed piece “Raiding A Brothel…” (5/26/11) calls for the prosecution of pimps and brothel owners as an effective tool towards ending sex trafficking. For too long law enforcement resources have been directed at arresting the prostituted instead of those who would commercially sexually exploit them. In other words, we have been arresting the wrong people. We join Mr. Kristof in this call for a shift in law enforcement priorities and add that it is crucial to adopt the Nordic approach by arresting the buyers of commercial sex who create the demand that is fueling sex trafficking.

In contrasting the brutality of prostitution in India with that of prostitution in China, Mr. Kristof states that women in China are typically “… working voluntarily.” We have found otherwise. Typically we find that women and girls are pushed into the sex industry through childhood sexual abuse, gender and racial inequality, poverty and pimps.

Given any other choice, the vast majority of women and girls in prostitution would be choosing opportunities that could lead to real careers — just like men do.

For the prostituted, the right to say no to unwanted sex has long been destroyed. At its core prostitution is violence against women and girls. A Canadian study found that women and girls in prostitution face a 40 times higher mortality rate than the national average. By all accounts, China has yet to achieve social conditions that meet the indicia of gender equality and has a high rate of poverty. In other words what may be masquerading as choice is actually a function of lack of choice.

One thought on “Nicholas Kristof on rescuing children from brothels

  1. Caterina,

    Thank you for keeping the light on this important topic. As one who spends a lot of time in Southeast Asia, I can attest to the rampant nature of the problem. The complete lack of value placed on human life and dignity by the offenders is mind boggling. Most of us are so fortunate to have grown up away from the type of abuse that Nicholas and Sheryl are working to end, but we all have opportunities and responsibilities to support the effort to abolish the horrid condition.

    In my opinion, punishment of the pimps must be so strict as to remove any incentive to participate. And foreigners who travel to such regions to support the practice (common in Southeast Asia) must be equally as harshly punished. Supporting homes which provide safety, education and dignity to those who have been sold or otherwise coerced into prostitution deserve our support as well.

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