Kristof Cartoon


If you’ve got a heart, you’ll find the facts about trafficking and child sexual abuse horrifying and compelling. If you have an ounce of common sense, you’ll want to lend a hand in the fight to protect women and children. There are many ways to do it, and many ways to approach it.

I am pleased that Nick Kristof has got thousands of people off their tailbones to engage in activism – via his many articles and book ‘Half The Sky‘. And if you care about an issue, it behooves you to investigate it in detail, and continually refine/question your strategy. With me so far?

I’m not sure that I agree with Kristof’s approach to disclosure. The identities of victims of trafficking and sexual abuse (particularly those who are underage) are prohibited from media circulation in most countries, including Cambodia. Following his recent ‘live-tweeting’ of a brothel raid, articles and and analyses have followed in the incident’s wake.

As a web wonk, it wasn’t hard to assemble a timeline of the raid and the events that preceded it. Please note this assemblage is of points I find salient and reflects my concerns about issues of methodology.

2004 – 2005
Kristof purchases two women from Cambodian brothels and writes an award-winning series of columns, compiled at the link: FREEING SEX SLAVES: A YEAR LATER (NYT/Kristof)
(‘Girls For Sale’ was part of the winning assemblage of columns that won Kristof the Michael Kelly Award in 2011.)

– Kristof continues writing about Cambodia, up to the present day.
January 28: Alexander Cockburn comments on ‘Nicholas Kristof’s Brothel Problem’ (Counterpunch)

2008 – ‘We start a school in Cambodia’ (NYT/Kristof) with American Assistance for Cambodia.

2009 – Publication of ‘Half The Sky’ book and launch of web site .
Blog Commentary:
-‘A human trafficker defends Cambodian sweatshops’(January 15)
-’Half the Sky: Holding Up One Man’s Massive Ego‘ (December 20)

April: A 60 Minutes exposé on ‘Three Cups of Tea’ and Kristof associate Greg Mortenson ignites debate on ‘do it yourself’ aid.

November 3: Kristof tweets of filming ‘Half The Sky’ advocacy film.

November 7: Kristof ‘live tweets’ an AFESIP brothel raid to rescue minors in Anlong Veng.
Discussion and debate on Twitter regarding raid, continuing to present.

November 8: ‘Nick Kristof to the Rescue!’ (Salon, Irin Carmon)

November 9-10: Kristof tweets on further raid outcomes, meeting ex-brothel girls.

November 11: ‘Fighting Back, One Brothel Raid at a Time’ (NYT/Kristof) (Including a picture of trafficked women.)
Accompanying blog post, ‘Joining on Somaly Mam’s Brothel Bust’ (NYT/Kristof)

November 13: Two raid photos are posted on Nick Kristof’s publicly accessible Facebook page. No consent forms are cited.

November 14: ‘Nick Kristof Tweets a Raid on an Underage Brothel – And not Everyone is Thrilled’ (The Faster Times / Faine Greenwood)
On the same day:
- @NickKristof to @tania_chabdai Tweets draw attention to trafficking & send traffickers to jail. That’s why situation is much better in Poipet, Svay Pak etc
- @tania_chabdai to @nickkristof {3} SvayPak, etc. isn’t better due to media coverage. It’s better due to advocates on the ground, of which there r many.

November 15: Return To Sender (Reason/Kerry Howley)

November 16: Kristof tweets:
- In Anlong Veng, Cambodia, 6 more brothels have closed since the raid I live-tweeted there that rescued a seventh-grader.
- In part, that’s the power of Twitter. And the fear of traffickers that they could be next to face wrath of @SomalyMam.

November 16: ‘The Face of Modern Slavery’ (NYT/Kristof) is published presenting explicit descriptions of the ordeal of a (now) 19 year old AFESIP survivor.
Shortly after the second article, Kristof revised his public Facebook profile to a private setting that required a login first.

November 17: Tania DoCarmo of Chabdai Coalition takes ire with ‘The Face of Modern Slavery’ and photographs:
- And he does it again. @NickKristof reveals private details of a child survivor’s trafficking story, breaking both the #UNCRC & #Cambodia law
- @NickKristof: See #Cambodia Law on Supp. of #HumanTrafficking, Art. 49. Add’l reading: @ChabDai media policy
- @NickKristof: See #Cambodia Prakas on Minimum Standards on Residential Care for Children, Art. 9. #childprotection #law

Cambodia, Slavery, and Not Buying People‘ (Blog/Dr. Erik Davis)

November 18: ‘Kristof tweets brothel raid: a sordid story in 140 characters’ (Phnom Penh Post / Claire Bynre)
Kristof announces he is migrating his information to a public Facebook profile. Brothel raid photos are not visible.

November 22: ‘The Conceit of Nicholas Kristof: Rescuing sex slaves as saintliness‘ (Blog/Dr. Laura Agustin)

November 25: Implications of insensitive media coverage of human trafficking (Blog/KeoK’jay)

December 07: Be Aware: Nick Kristof’s Anti-Politics (Blog / The New Inquiry)


I am not an anti-trafficking expert. There are many different organizations working in Cambodia (and globally) on the issue, with diverse perspectives. They don’t always agree. I am publishing these links to enhance discussion amongst those who are concerned about the protection of women and children, in the hope of expanding the range of dialogue.

The impetus for sharing my notes today? It’s ‘International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers‘.

I would be pleasantly surprised to see Nick Kristof or Somaly Mam blogging or tweeting about today’s event; their stance seems to favor the elimination of prostitution. This illustrates that there’s a wide variety of perspectives regarding the protection of women and children. I favor a ‘harm reduction‘ approach: I’m not a fan of prostitution, but I don’t believe the world’s ‘oldest profession’ will go away soon, or should be criminalized.

The original draft of this article was written in haste and shelved for a few weeks. We don’t need sensationalism, anger or hype; we need constructive discusssion on tactics. Besides, I respect the intent of Mr. Kristof and Ms. Somaly. I strongly hope they can continue to refine their perspectives. They are some of the most prominent public voices on the issue of trafficking.

There are others that are quite worthy of attention as well. To ‘accentuate the positive’, here are some additional anti-trafficking organizations that have much less global publicity but are doing essential work:

Cambodia Women’s Crisis Center:

Goutte d’Eau:

Friends-International / Peuan Peuan

M’lop Tapang:

Hagar Cambodia:

Action Pour Les Enfants:

Legal Support for Children and Women:

Healthcare Center for Children:

Cambodian Center for the Protection of Children’s Rights:


My belief is that in a more just and equitable environment for women and children, voluntary sex work would be a choice made by very few. For us to move towards that world, it will require the efforts of many.

(Also published on

8 Responses to “Half The Sky; On The Ground”

  1. Erik Davis says:

    Really excellent collection of relevant events. Kristof is helping himself, and only secondarily, and apparently without any clear notion of existing anti slavery workers. His journalism appears self serving.

  2. Erik Davis says:

    Sorry, ‘only secondarily, and haphazardly, helping the enslaved..”

  3. [...] Webbed Feet, Web Log » Blog Archive » Half The Sky; On The Ground If you’ve got a heart, you’ll find the facts about trafficking and child sexual abuse horrifying and compelling. If you have an ounce of … Apsara [...]

  4. [...] Half The Sky; On The Ground – Webbed Feet - Interesting timeline and perspective on Kristof’s writing on sex trafficking. [...]

  5. [...] Half the Sky; On the Ground – an interesting perspective of Nick Kristof’s covering of sex [...]

  6. [...] Half The Sky; On The Ground – Webbed Feet - Interesting timeline and perspective on Kristof’s writing on sex trafficking. [...]

  7. Jinja says:

    Newsweek (5/21/2014) “Somaly Mam saved countless girls in Cambodia. Does it matter if her campaign is built on lies?” – Simon Marks

  8. Jinja says:

    Chronology of Nicholas Kristof / Somaly Mam ‘Half The Sky’ interaction:

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