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January 19, 2005 3:17 PM   Subscribe

A year ago, NYT reporter Nicholas Kristof purchased two Cambodian prostitutes (discussed here). Today, he's published an update, along with a multimedia presentation about the girls' lives.
posted by mudpuppie (19 comments total)

 
Massages are routine in beauty shops in Cambodia and are not sexual, but for Srey Neth, they scream danger. I'm delighted.

He's delighted that she now has an unnatural fear of human contact?

I'm glad he did what he did. I'm glad she's free of the nightmare she lived in. But of all the things to be delighted about with her new life, he's delighted about that? What a strange man.
posted by chundo at 3:31 PM on January 19, 2005


Fantastic, heartwarming story. Amazing how so little ($453) can take someone from sex slavery to a(n assumed) fulfilling life. Or at least the beginnings of one. Bravo.
posted by OpinioNate at 3:34 PM on January 19, 2005


One or two out of thousands upon thousands of women who have no life of their own and live in constant fear.

I think he's happy that she has no interest in returning to the sex trades.
posted by fenriq at 3:36 PM on January 19, 2005


He notes that "the bad news", about the other young woman, will run in his next column.
posted by availablelight at 3:42 PM on January 19, 2005


Fantastic heartwarming HALF of a story.

Remember, he said at the bottom of the column we get to hear about Srey Mom on Sunday, and the way he phrased it, it doesn't sound good.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:42 PM on January 19, 2005 [1 favorite]


"He's delighted that she now has an unnatural fear of human contact?"

Considering what she's been through, I'd say the fear is not unnatural. And I think it's made plain that it's only of male human contact.

One year is not long enough to get past that sort of damage. Let's let her get her life solidly established for herself before we ask her to work through any other issues!

I agree with fenriq, I think Kristof is delighted because that fear will act as a powerful defense for her to never go backwards.

Real pity that her family pretty much destroyed her original attempt at doing business - and thus she almost took a path that might have put her back in a brothel, and was stopped only by outside help. Now, how do we extend the same help to the thousands of other young girls in the same situation?

snark (disregard at will)
Oh, that's right, we can't. We're too busy blowing all our money on more important stuff, like wars and SUVs.
/snark

Kristof should start some sort of organization to sponsor this sort of thing, to buy girls back and free them. I'd throw in $500 to maybe save a girl's life.
posted by zoogleplex at 4:06 PM on January 19, 2005


....so would I, if I didn't think the ultimate result would be to create further financial incentive for this kind of trafficking, like has happened in the Sudan since the efforts of outsiders to "buy" slaves their freedom.
posted by availablelight at 4:12 PM on January 19, 2005


availablelight is absolutely correct. On the surface, forming an organization to buy back slaves and free them seems like a noble act. But, human nature being what it is, such action actually ends up encouraging an increase in the number of people who are taken into slavery. The unscrupulous begin acquiring slaves for the sole purpose of selling them to the philanthropists. Oops.
posted by Justinian at 4:25 PM on January 19, 2005


....so what about all those Westerners from the US, UK, Germany, etc etc who are patronizing those brothels?

How can we shame the sex tourists?
posted by konolia at 4:30 PM on January 19, 2005


konolia, by publishing pictures of them having sex with children on the front pages of their local newspapers.

and availablelight makes an excellent point about giving the "owners" more of an incentive to round up more girls to sell back. It becomes an ugly cycle very quickly.

Better to make the system too dangerous for them to participate in. Conviction of trafficking in children for the purpose of sex trades = execution or life imprisonment. That sort of punishment might help things but I truly don't know what, if anything, could stop them altogether.
posted by fenriq at 4:53 PM on January 19, 2005


So, in short, to break this hypothetical cycle we should in fact be giving money to the poor prior to them being sold as prostitutes... Its sort of irritating that the solution is so simple yet nobody (myself included) is doing a great deal to solve it.
posted by blindsam at 5:16 PM on January 19, 2005


Well, I might point out that this gentleman did try to put the girl in the position of honestly supporting her family. That's more than most of us do.

He also rather handily points out that there are pitfalls to just giving out money and hoping everything works out right. In this case, not only did her first business venture fail miserably, she almost ended up trafficked all over again. The thing that has saved her -- twice now -- is other people looking out for her, and being there with a helping hand as well as an open wallet.
posted by ilsa at 5:27 PM on January 19, 2005


Massages are routine in beauty shops in Cambodia and are not sexual, but for Srey Neth, they scream danger. I'm delighted.

He's delighted that she now has an unnatural fear of human contact?

I am not sure he is correct. I lived in China for a time and beauty shop "massages" are often the way a sex buyer and seller meet. If you go t a beauty shop in China during the evening it will suddenly mysteriouly fill with Chinese men having shampoos and massages - head massages that go on for very long durations until the customer and massager dissapear through a back door of the beauty shop.
posted by trii at 5:46 PM on January 19, 2005


Good to see the thoughtful follow-through this writer demonstrates.
posted by humannature at 6:00 PM on January 19, 2005


trii -

That would make much more sense. Or perhaps he was emphasizing that in that area, massages were non-sexual, whereas in the areas she worked as a prostitute, they were. Hard to decipher though.

zoogleplex -

I wasn't saying she should be over this issue; I found it perplexing that he focused on this point to be "delighted" about, since to me it seems like emotional scarring from a terrible experience.
posted by chundo at 8:55 PM on January 19, 2005


hmmm. trii, i'm no expert, but chinese and cambodian massages may well be different. they're certainly very different countries in other ways.

the openness of the sex trade in cambodia may mean that there's no need to disguise prostitution as "massages" there, so when someone's selling "massages" in cambodia, they mean it. i paid for massages in cambodia that were just massages, although that's hardly a scientific study. check out "off the rails in phnom penh: into the dark heart of girls, guns, and ganja" by amit gilboa for an interesting and deeply depressing story about the sex trade in cambodia.
posted by equipoise at 10:09 PM on January 19, 2005


konolia, by publishing pictures of them having sex with children on the front pages of their local newspapers.

We can do more than that. We can ensure our authorities are working with authorities in areas where this is a problem (and I fear there's a lot of them) to keep track of those we already know are paedophiles. We can help to properly finance multilateral initiatives to track trafficking and to try to stamp it out using both the law and social approaches which address the roots of the problems. (What do you know? It's our old friend poverty again!)
Here's a report on one UK initiative. I'll stand correction on this but I was also under the impression that under UK law you can be tried in the UK for paedophile sex tourism committed elsewhere.
posted by biffa at 3:27 AM on January 20, 2005


The only way to prevent this is by the slow eradication of poverty in the region. She sold herself initialy because she had no other way to support her family.

Also, Kristof is a moron for thinking the Srey's store would work out. If you gave a young american $20,000 or whatever to start a store to support themselves, it might work because an american only needs to support themselves, but that's not the same in other cultures. If the store had been making enough money for her family, it would have been able to cover the food eaten by them (in fact, it would be cheaper to give them food directly then profits from the store).

If he'd given her enough money to start a store that could support his family (probably less then the cost of her plane ticket) then she might have had a chance. But he basicaly expected her to abandon her family for herself. For an Asian that might be worse then prostitution.

You know, a good way to combat this might be to setup a system to for americans to 'invest' money in helping to build the local economies. To keep these girls from becomming slaves. Rather then go to a man-dealer they could go to an agent of this charity and together they could figure out a plan.

I'll stand correction on this but I was also under the impression that under UK law you can be tried in the UK for paedophile sex tourism committed elsewhere.

I dunno about the UK but in the US it's illegal to leave the country for purposes of having sex with a minor, however if you have another reason for leaving, and happen to boff a 14 year old while out there I'm not sure it's illegal.
posted by delmoi at 8:51 AM on January 20, 2005


I am not sure he is correct. I lived in China for a time and beauty shop "massages" are often the way a sex buyer and seller meet.

Yes, and China is exactly the same as Cambodia. Jesus. I lived in Taiwan for a time and coffee shops served a similar function; therefore one should not go to coffee shops anywhere in the Far East, because they're all pretty much the same country, eh?

mudpuppie: Thanks for the post; I look forward (unhappily) to the next installment.
posted by languagehat at 9:36 AM on January 20, 2005


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