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No. 175
January 4th, 2009

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Readers, Please Indulge Me for a Brief “PSA”

My news-reading habits may not be as extensive as, say, Sarah Palin’s, but most days, part of my morning routine is to read the New York Times online, and The Oregonian 2-3 days a week.

I particularly love the Times’ Op-Ed section–my favorites are Tom Friedman and David Brooks, as I may have mentioned before somewhere on this blog, but I usually enjoy reading everyone’s thoughts from Bill Kristol to Bob Herbert (the exception is Paul Krugman, though I read him anyway).

It’s been a busy holiday week for me, so this morning I was catching up on all the columns I’d missed and read these two by Nicholas Kristof. They’re about the sex-slave trade that is still alive and quite well in Cambodia.

I am rarely moved by anything I read these days, numbed by the constant media barrage of crime and corruption, but the stories of the two girls he interviews, Sina Vann and Long Pross, are just shocking and heart-breaking.

A couple of excerpts:

As in many brothels, the torture of choice was electric shocks. Sina would be tied down, doused in water and then prodded with wires running from the 220-volt wall outlet. The jolt causes intense pain, sometimes evacuation of the bladder and bowel — and even unconsciousness.

Shocks fit well into the brothel business model because they cause agonizing pain and terrify the girls without damaging their looks or undermining their market value.

Brothel owners can charge large sums for sex with a virgin, and like many girls, Pross was painfully stitched up so she could be resold as a virgin. In all, the brothel owner sold her virginity four times.

At any rate, I encourage you to read Kristof’s stories, if only to become aware of a terrible institution allowed to persist on the other side of the world. If you’d like to help the sex-slave girls in Cambodia, the Somaly Mam Foundation seemed to me to be a worthy place to donate. If you’re a New York resident, you might write a letter or an email to Gov. Patterson encouraging him to select Carolyn Maloney, a congresswoman who has already stood up in the fight against sex trafficking, to fill Hillary’s senate seat.

  • Heartbreaking, David. Just nauseating.

    Unfortunately, the sad fact of the matter is that women and female children are the most discriminated against group in the history of our troubled world. We have had it worse than any racial or religious group, over time, in total. Even here in the Western world, I know few women who have not been abused at some point in their lives. I recently spoke to a wonderful doctor who confided in me that nearly all of her female patients have experienced abuse and assault. It’s the truth few people want to face about how women fare on planet Earth.

    It’s up to our brothers to see that their own dignity is inextricably tied up in the dignity they recognize as innate in their sisters. Like any kind of slavery, the evil is happening to both the slave and the master…both are being corrupted and change forever.

    I’m glad this story got to you, David, so much so that you wrote about it. God be with those little girls in Cambodia…and, moreover, with the men who are doing this to them.


  • Mal

    Good choice in authors… I hope Thomas Friedman gets whatever it takes to run for office some day. The World is Flat and Hot, Flat, and Crowded were both excellent … I did them both on audio.

    Life is cheap in parts of South East Asia like it’s cheap in parts all over the planet. In Bangkok I saw 10 year olds doing finishing work on the outside of sky scrappers working on 1 inch bamboo scaffolding with zero safety harnesses or helmets. Sure you can save an individual or two from any savage enterprise, but if we can increase education and information and create better jobs we will save many more unfortunates.

    Cambodia is still numb from what happened there. Remember a third of the population was killed and they were the people who were educated, spoke more than one language, had a profession, went to school, had glasses. All that was left were the people with no education, and that in itself is one of the main roots of the problem. People reading this blog could do a lot for Cambodia buy setting up some standardized Web Design classes and an internet cafe. There are a lot of young people there who don’t have a chance because they don’t have any higher education.

  • Coincidence – I just finished reading Somaly Mam’s book a few weeks ago. You should read it – it left me completely baffled on how people can do this.