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February 17, 2004

More than a few readers

Daniel Radosh

More than a few readers drawn by the Landesman saga have brought up Nicholas Kristof's columns about purchasing and freeing Cambodian slaves. My interest is in journalism, and I feel ill-equipped (and not so interested) to pursue big questions of how best to tackle sexual trafficking.

I'll turn the matter over to Katha Pollitt:

To tell you the truth, I thought those columns were a little weird--there's such a long tradition of privileged men rescuing individual prostitutes as a kind of whirlwind adventure. You would never know from the five columns he wrote about young Srey Neth and Srey Mom, that anyone in Cambodia thought selling your daughter to a brothel was anything but wonderful. I wish he had given us the voices of some Cambodian activists--for starters, the Cambodian Women's Crisis Center and the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)--both of which are skeptical about brothel raids and rescues, which often dump traumatized girls on local NGOs that lack the resources to care for them. Instead he called Donna Hughes--a professor at Rhode Island University who publishes in National Review, The Weekly Standard and FrontPage Magazine, and whose opposition to all forms of prostitution is so monolithic that she has written against the Thai government's policy of promoting and enforcing condom use in brothels to prevent transmission of AIDS--and gave her space to ventilate against American feminists...

You can see the narrative in the process of creation: Third World women are victims; American men are saviors. Right-wing Christians care about Third World women; feminists only care about themselves.

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