Nicholas Kristof on a “worthless” woman

The Times columnist ponders the fate of a Pakistani sex slave.

Topics: Broadsheet, Love and Sex,

I don’t know how Nicholas Kristof does it.

The New York Times columnist has repeatedly written that he believes “the central moral challenge of this century, equivalent to the struggles against slavery in the 19th century or against totalitarianism in the 20th, will be to address sex inequality in the third world.” True to that conviction, he now spends the better part of his time stationed in Sudanese refugee camps, South Asian brothels and Middle Eastern war zones, ferreting out women’s stories of courage and cruelty and bringing them to the world.

This week finds Kristof in Khanpur, Pakistan — where Aisha Parveen, a former sex slave who escaped from her brothel and married a man she loved, faces adultery charges brought against her by the very man who was her one-time captor. If Parveen is convicted of adultery, Kristof writes, “then her supposed husband, [the pimp], will bail her out and take her away. Ms. Parveen says she believes he will then rape and torture her, and finally kill her.”

In other words, Kristof writes, “the judicial system, while ignoring the sex trafficking of children, may now, in the name of morality, hand a young woman over to a brothel owner to do with her as he wants.” The hearing that will decide Parveen’s fate is today.

Though sex trafficking now gets a lot of media play in the West, Kristof claims that global change is slow because “the victims tend to be the least powerful people … poor and uneducated rural girls.” He writes, Aisha Parveen “is simply one more impoverished girl from the countryside, and if her brothel’s owner goes ahead and kills her, almost no one will care.”

It’s heartbreaking to think so. But I have a hunch that after seeing Parveen’s story in the New York Times, there are now thousands of readers who would disagree.

Sarah Karnasiewicz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Brooklyn, N.Y. Until recently, she was senior editor at Saveur magazine; prior to that she was deputy Life editor at Salon. She has contributed to the New York Times, the New York Observer and Rolling Stone, among other publications. For more of her work, visit and Signs and Wonders.

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>