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Half the Sky

Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

By Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
12-minute read
Audio available
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

Half the Sky is about unlocking the greatest untapped resource on Earth: women. It outlines some of the most serious problems facing women throughout the world, such as human trafficking and gender-based violence, and why it’s so difficult for the world to overcome them, and what we stand to gain if we do.

  • Women and men everywhere
  • Anyone interested in feminism and gender equality
  • Anyone who wants to make the world a better place

Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn are the first married couple to win a Pulitzer Prize in journalism, which they received for their coverage of China as correspondents for The New York Times. Kristof also received a second Pulitzer for his reporting on the genocide in Darfur. WuDunn previously worked as a foreign correspondent in Asia, a business editor and a television anchor, and is currently a banking executive.

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Half the Sky

Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

By Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
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Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
Synopsis

Half the Sky is about unlocking the greatest untapped resource on Earth: women. It outlines some of the most serious problems facing women throughout the world, such as human trafficking and gender-based violence, and why it’s so difficult for the world to overcome them, and what we stand to gain if we do.

Key idea 1 of 7

Sex slavery exists because certain women are viewed as “discounted humans.”

Today, the number of enslaved women trafficked into brothels every year is greater than the number of African slaves who were sent to plantations in the 18th and 19th centuries. Many die from AIDS when they’re only in their twenties. How is this possible?

It’s important to understand the difference between prostitution and sex slavery. The former is mostly voluntary: women may be economically pressured into it, but they’re not physically forced to do it. China has the highest number of prostitutes of any country.

Sex slaves, on the other hand, are often locked in a room and forced to work around fifteen hours a day, seven days a week. They’re often unpaid, and frequently beaten and humiliated. India has the highest number of sex slaves.

Humiliation is key to keeping women trapped in these situations. Once you break someone’s spirit, you can coerce them into almost anything. Some women are even manipulated into going out into the street with a smile on their faces and bring men back to the brothel.

One 15-year-old Thai girl reported that she was forced to eat dog feces just to break her will.

The sex slave trade operates on an implicit contract: men satisfy themselves with lower-class girls so upper-class girls can maintain their virtuousness.

In fact, in India, border officers often allow traffickers and their slaves to get in. They’re tougher on terrorists, weapons and smuggled or pirated goods like copied DVDs. That’s because, like many, they believe that prostitution is inevitable: it’s the only outlet for men who don’t get married until they’re around 30. They also believe that it keeps good, middle-class Indian girls safe by sacrificing peasant girls (who are often Nepalese) instead.

People get away with this in the modern world for the same reasons people got away with enslaving Africans centuries ago: slaves are perceived as discounted humans.

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