Half the Sky, written by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, gives insight on the oppression of women throughout the world. The oppression of women range from the denial of simple rights such as education, to the brutal rape, and even murder of female newborns. Although I was only required to read 4 chapters of this book, I chose to read the whole thing because I wanted to. I am a woman and I believe it is my responsibility to learn how the “other side” lives, and to recognize the privileges I take for granted every day that other women around the world die for.
The introduction started with the story of a Cambodian girl, which grabbed my attention immediately. When Srey Rath was 15, she decided to work in Thailand to help pay her family bills. Instead, she was given to gangsters in Malaysia and sold for sex. The men that ran these brothels were professionals at breaking down “their” women. They would beat them, drug them, and humiliate them until the girls would comply to their satisfaction.
“[A] study found that thirty-nine thousand baby girls die annually in China because parents don’t give them the same medical care and attention that boys receive.”
The introduction also raised many points I found that were interesting. One reminded me of the Rwandan genocide; “Imagine the outcry if the Pakistani or Indian governments were burning women alive at those rates. Yet when the government is not directly involved, people shrug.” This reminded me of Rwanda because the whole world shrugged during that time. No one was willing to help, and some even left the country.
“Girls in India from one to five years of age are 50 percent more likely to die than boys the same age.”
The chapter I was assigned was Chapter 5: The Shame of “Honor.” This section talked about the sacredness of virginity, brutal mass rape, and honor killings. Virginity is so valuable in some cultures, even the Bible advocates stoning women to death when they fail to bleed on their wedding day. It sickens me that women are being murdered for committing an act they may not have done.
An honor killing is when a family kills one of its own girls because she behaved immodestly or has fallen in love with a man. Often times, women are killed with no actual proof that they had sex. A Kurdish girl from Iraq fell in love with a Sunni Arab boy. She stayed with him one night and it was assumed they slept together. No proof was needed for 1,000 men to rip her clothes off in humiliation, kick her, and drop concrete blocks on her, eventually killing her after thirty minutes.
The most horrifying act of rape is that of which happens in the eastern Congo, also known as the “world rape capital.” As I read the details of what these men do, I squirmed and grimaced in my seat.
“Congolese militias rape women with sticks or knives or bayonets, or else they fire their guns into the women’s vaginas.”
These ruthless men do not discriminate against age either. On one account, a three year old was raped, and they fired their gun into her afterwards. Rape is now seen as a “weapon of war” where it dishonors and punishes a rival due to the high sacredness of virginity.
Dina, a 17 year old from the Congo, was approached by five men and raped by each one of them. Then they held her down and shoved a stick inside her. The stick had broken into her bladder and rectum, causing a fistula, or hole, in the tissues. This led to urine and feces trickling constantly through her vagina and down her legs. I could never imagine this kind of hatred and violence. I was so unaware that this existed, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
The last section talked about the HEAL Africa Hospital. The HEAL Africa hospital takes care of women with injuries like Dina. They care for, feed, and pay all medical expenses. The hospital has difficulty getting electricity, water, and bandages for the patients and experiences overwhelming corruption, but they keep running. I am constantly amazed at the humanity that does exist while such acts of gruesome brutality go on.