In case you haven't come across the two Kristof columns below - I
guess he got a visa to Pakistan after all. I would have liked to know
how he got there and found this case about one woman's story re:
trafficking, sex slavery & misuse of the Hudood Ordinance in Pk. As he
writes, the publicity may save Aisha Parveen but there are thousands
of others who will continue to suffer as long as this sytem continues
unchecked. Thanks to Asiapeace for the posting.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: omar ali <omarali502000@...
Date: Mar 28, 2006 6:32 PM
Subject: Asiapeace (ACHA) Fwd: A Woman Without Importance by Nicholas
Kristof, The New York Times
To: asiapeace <firstname.lastname@example.org
Association for Communal Harmony in Asia (ACHA)
posted by Shaheryar Azhar.
"Azhar, Shaheryar [CRRM]" <shaheryar.azhar@...
Excerpt: "Mian Sher, the violent sadist who had kidnapped her - beat
and sexually tortured her, and regularly drugged her so that she would
fall unconscious and customers could do with her as they
liked.......Aisha Parveen will live another day. Indeed, at least
another week.......Since these victims usually are voiceless, I'll
give Ms. Parveen the last word so she can prick our consciences. "God
should not give daughters to poor people," she said in despair. "And
if a daughter is born, God should grant her death.""
The New York Times
March 26, 2006
A Woman Without Importance
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
KHANPUR, Pakistan: Aisha Parveen doesn't matter. She's simply one more
impoverished girl from the countryside, and if her brothel's owner
goes ahead and kills
her, almost no one will care.
Ms. Parveen, an outspoken 20-year-old woman with flashing eyes, is
steeling herself for a state-administered horror. Just two months
after she escaped from the brothel in which she was tortured and
imprisoned for six years, the courts are poised to hand her back to
the brothel owner.
Sex trafficking, nurtured by globalization and increased mobility, is
becoming worse. The U.N. estimates that one million children are held
in conditions of slavery in Asia alone. Yet it never gets much
attention, because the victims tend to be the least powerful people in
these societies: poor and uneducated rural girls.
Ms. Parveen was a 14-year-old Pashtun living in the northwest of
Pakistan when she was hit on the head while walking to school. She
says she awoke to find herself imprisoned in a brothel hundreds of
miles away, in this remote southeastern Pakistani town of Khanpur.
A person of unbelievable strength, Ms. Parveen fought back and refused
to sleep with customers. So, she says, the brothel owner - Mian Sher,
the violent sadist who had kidnapped her - beat and sexually tortured
her, and regularly drugged her so that she would fall unconscious and
customers could do with her as they liked.
This went on for six years, during which she says she was beaten every
day. The girls in the brothel were forced to sleep naked at night, so
that they would be too embarrassed to try to escape. Ms. Parveen says
she believes that two of them, Malo Jan and Suwa Tai, were killed
after they repeatedly refused to sleep with customers. In any case
condoms were never available, so all the girls may eventually die of
I wanted to look into the eyes of a man who could do these things. So
I barged into Mian Sher's brothel, identified myself and interviewed
He warily offered me tea, pleasantries and flashes of violent temper.
He denied kidnapping Ms. Parveen, saying that he had married her six
years earlier. He also denied that he pimped the girls - a claim
undermined by a customer who was walking out of his brothel as I
arrived. Others working in the area said that Mian Sher unquestionably
ran a brothel, and that Ms. Parveen had been imprisoned in it.
In January, Ms. Parveen got a break. A metalworker, Mohamed Akram, had
been doing work in the brothel, and he pitied her. "She laid her scarf
down on my feet and begged me, in the name of the Holy Koran, to
rescue her," he remembers, and soon he felt not only pity but also
So on Jan. 5, Ms. Parveen stealthily arose in the middle of the night,
crept past Mian Sher and padlocked the door with him inside. Then she
ran to a car that Mr. Akram had sent. The next day, they were married.
Then the judicial nightmare began. Mian Sher brought charges against
the couple, claiming that Ms. Parveen is his wife and must return to
"The police have taken money from him," Ms. Parveen said. "They say,
'You're married to him, so you should go back to him.' Well, I would
rather die than go back to the brothel."
The police are now prosecuting Ms. Parveen for adultery. She is free
on bail, but thugs have attacked her home and tried to kidnap her.
Mian Sher told me his plan: if Ms. Parveen is jailed for adultery,
then as her supposed husband he will bail her out and take her away.
Ms. Parveen says she believes he will then rape and torture her, and
finally kill her.
So 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 new abolitionism, against sex trafficking, is being pushed in
America by an unlikely coalition of religious conservatives and
liberal feminists; leaders include the Coalition Against Trafficking
in Women, Ecpat, Equality Now and International Justice Mission. But
progress is slow because the victims tend to be voiceless young people
like Ms. Parveen.
Whether Ms. Parveen is returned to her brothel owner and killed may
be, in terms of global issues, a small matter. But after spending a
couple of days with this smart and lovely young woman, after seeing
her in moments of giddy laughter and terrified weeping, I can't help
thinking that slavery should be just as outrageous in the 21st century
as it was in the 19th.
A court hearing to decide Ms. Parveen's fate is scheduled for tomorrow
here in Khanpur. I'll let you know what happens.
March 28, 2006
In Disgrace, and Facing Death
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Aisha Parveen will live another day. Indeed, at least another week.
Ms. Parveen, the young Pashtun woman I wrote about on Sunday was
kidnapped at the age of 14 and imprisoned in a brothel here in
southeastern Pakistan for six years. She escaped in January and
married the man who helped her flee, but now a Pakistani court has
charged her with adultery and is threatening to hand her back to the
brothel owner - even though she is adamant that he will then torture
and kill her.
Ms. Parveen's court hearing was yesterday, and I was afraid that would
be the end. But the court adjourned the case for one week for further
investigation. And Ms. Parveen's lawyer thinks the mood is different
now: the Pakistani press picked up on my column, and the attention
will make judges more careful about handling her.
So the publicity may save her life, but it won't make much difference
for thousands of other Aisha Parveens around the world. Asma Jahangir,
the chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said she
sees cases like Ms. Parveen's all the time.
"There is no such thing called justice in Pakistan," said Ms.
Jahangir, a prominent lawyer in Lahore. "It has simply collapsed."
Ms. Jahangir fights heroically for poor women who have been charged -
like Ms. Parveen - with zina offenses under Islamic law. Zina
encompasses fornication and adultery, and accusations of zina are
effective weapons against women.
Landlords often evict women tenants, for example, by accusing them of
zina. Worse, women who go to the police to report rapes can be
arrested for zina, because they have acknowledged illicit sex and yet
usually cannot provide four male witnesses to prove that it was rape.
Even professionals like Ms. Jahangir are targeted if they confront the
government. Last year, for example, the police attacked her and a
group of other middle-class women demonstrating for women's rights.
She says that an aide to President Pervez Musharraf gave the police
instructions about her: "Teach the [expletive] a lesson. Strip her in
public." Sure enough, the police ripped off her shirt.
Ms. Parveen, now living in hiding after several kidnapping attempts in
the last few days, faces an even more brutal struggle. Her only stroke
of luck is having her new husband, Mohamed Akram, who rescued her from
the brothel, on her side. The young couple are lovebirds, and each
keeps talking about being so lucky to have found the other.
But Mr. Akram, while unwavering in his love, has disgraced his family
by marrying a supposedly fallen woman, and his older sister is
"My brother-in-law sent me a message: 'Unless you divorce her, I will
divorce your sister,' " Mr. Akram lamented. "She has two kids. And
he's also beating her now. He's very upset because I married a girl
who was in a brothel, who is not a virgin."
The couple cannot seek refuge with Ms. Parveen's parents, because
Pashtun parents routinely protect their family honor by killing
daughters accused of zina.
"I cannot go back there because if I do, they'll kill me," Ms. Parveen
said. "In their eyes I'm dishonored, because even if a girl is
kidnapped, then in their eyes she still should be killed."
Saddest of all, her story isn't newsworthy in a classic sense. There's
nothing at all unusual about a young Asian woman suffering years of
sexual enslavement, or judicial malpractice or murder.
And that's the challenge for us all, Asians and Americans alike - to
change our worldview and put gender issues like sex trafficking higher
on the global agenda.
A quarter-century ago, Jimmy Carter plucked human rights abuses from
the backdrop of the international arena and put them on the agenda.
Now it's time to focus on gender inequality in the developing world,
for that is the greatest single source of human rights violations
Political dissidents tend to get the world's attention. But for every
dissident who is beaten to death by government torturers somewhere in
the world, thousands of ordinary women or girls die prematurely
because of the effects of discrimination. In India, for example, girls
1 to 5 years old are 50 percent more likely to die than boys of the
same age, because the boys are favored. That differential accounts for
the death of a young Indian girl every four minutes.
Since these victims usually are voiceless, I'll give Ms. Parveen the
last word so she can prick our consciences.
"God should not give daughters to poor people," she said in despair.
"And if a daughter is born, God should grant her death."
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