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Slavery in our Time

Nicholas D. Kristof, (22Jan06) “Slavery in our Time,” The New York Times, WK16.




The writer Nicholas Kristof, a journalist for The New York Times, has submitted reports with videos of sex slaves in Cambodia, where he bought and freed at least two girls, taking them back to their villages. You may see these videos at (, 25Jan06).


India, the writer says, has more children in brothels than any other country—some half a million! Kristof tells the story of Geeta Gosh, a girl from a rural Indian village. Geeta’s family allowed her only two months of schooling (she is therefore illiterate) and abused her until she took refuge with a friendly auntie. Things seemed much better for her than at home until the Auntie took her, when she was only 12, to a beauty parlor, put her in a sound-proof room, and sold her virginity to an Arab man.  Geeta describes what happened:


I was terrified to see this huge man in front of me. I cried a lot and fell to his feet, pleading. He pulled off my dress, and the rapes went on for a month like that. He made me sleep naked beside him, and he drank a lot, and he hurt me so much.


When the man was finally done with Geeta, the brothel owner offered her to customers “daily for five years—and only after eight months as a prostitute did she mature enough to get her first period.” She was beaten when she talked of leaving. Geeta remembers a large sewage drain in the house:


The madam said, “If you ever try to run away, we’ll chop you up and throw the pieces down this drain.”


After three years of service, Geeta was allowed out in front of the brothel with other older teenage girls. She knew asking passing police for help was out of the question, as they were paid off by the madam.


A taxi driver who visited Geeta became close to her. She doesn’t know if it was love or sympathy, but he finally helped her escape and they are now married, have four children, and live in a small one-room hovel. It isn’t much, it is sometimes flooded with sewage from a nearby canal, but Geeta is finally free.


Kristof concludes:


All around India and the world, girls are still locked up in brothels as Geeta was. Indeed, sex trafficking is one problem that appears to have become worse around the globe, as organized crime, increased mobility and the rise of markets have turned pubescent flesh into a tradable commodity. Moreover, fear of AIDS has nurtured markets for virgins and younger children who customers think are less likely to have H.I.V.




1. Is this an understandable problem to you? In other words, do you see how lonely men who may feel powerless are willing to pay money and force themselves on such young girls?

2. Is there anything in global media that might fan the passions and desire to control for such men?

3. What are the economic factors among all those who contribute to children in brothels (the customers, the brothel owners, those who take bribes, the local economies of the communities where that house the brothels, the parents, and the children themselves?)


4. In your mind, what might be done to stop or curtail this pernicious practice?



1. Kristof points out that pressures and actions of some individuals, agencies and governments are making some difference. He reports on some girls who have made it out.


2. A young Canadian boy, Craig Kielburger, is the founder of Free the Children (, a student-driven initiative to end child servitude. As an 8th grader, he read a newspaper article about the murder of Iqbal Masih, a Pakistani child labor activist—who had himself suffered child servitude. With parental encouragement, Kielburger studied up on the issue of child labor and learned that 200 million children are forced to work throughout the world. He began writing and speaking out about this issue and, while still a 9th grade student at Toronto’s Mary Ward School, started his organization. Writing campaigns and petitions he began putting pressure on the UN, multi-nationals and governments, including his own. Canada’s Minister of External Affairs has passed a resolution stating that Canadians who molest children or engage in child prostitution anywhere in the world can be prosecuted under Canadian law. His government has also allocated $700,000 to the International Program for the Elimination of Child Labor.


What then, might come of a national or worldwide initiative of childrens’ clubs and associations to eliminate child trafficking and prostitution? With adult support, children’s endeavors can make a difference.


Dean Borgman    cCYS