Good news for Aisha Parveen

The publicity generated by Nicholas Kristof's column may save her life, but she's just "one of thousands."


Sarah Elizabeth Richards
March 28, 2006 8:47PM (UTC)

Here's some hopeful news regarding the case of the former Pakistani sex slave charged with adultery that Broadsheet alerted readers to yesterday: The court adjourned her case for one week for further investigation, the New York Times' Nicholas Kristof reports today. And her lawyer thinks that the publicity generated by his Sunday column may have put pressure on the judges to save her life. (Some quick background: Aisha Parveen was charged with the crime after marrying the man who helped her escape the brothel in which she was imprisoned for six years. The court threatened to return her to her supposed husband -- her pimp -- whom she's certain will kill her.)

But Parveen's troubles are far from over: Her new husband of a couple of months is being pressured to divorce her; his brother-in-law is threatening to leave his sister if he doesn't. According to Parveen's husband, Mohamed Akram, his sister has two kids and is now being abused by her husband. "He's very upset because I married a girl who was in a brothel, who is not a virgin," says Akram. And the couple can't go to Parveen's parents because they are terrified her family will murder her because she dishonored them -- even though she was kidnapped.

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A solemn Kristof writes that unfortunately there are thousands of other Aisha Parveens, accused of fornication and adultery -- which are considered "zina" offenses under Islamic law -- who don't get the attention of a caring Times' columnist the day before their court hearings. Women accused of zina are routinely evicted from their homes; even raped women can be arrested for having "illicit sex" because they can't find four male witnesses to prove it wasn't rape.

Once again, by bringing us these heartbreaking stories, Kristof challenges the world to take on gender equality issues, which he argues are the "greatest single source of human rights violations today." One former sex slave now has a voice, but will others? We hope Kristof's dispatches do more than just give us an inspiring read.


Sarah Elizabeth Richards

Sarah Elizabeth Richards is a journalist based in New York. She can be reached at sarah@saraherichards.com.

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