Reading Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn is an intensely sobering experience. Meena, a sex slave in India, had such a horrendous life that I doubt anyone could make this up. Minds don’t seem dark enough for the atrocities the book speaks of, and yet they still occurred The very idea that we still have slaves today (or pirates, or anything that seems out of my old 8th grade History book) seems laughable. However, the United Nations estimates that there are about 12.3 million enslaved people today. Among them are one million enslaved children in Asia.
Women who are forced into prostitution are rather an epitome of heartbreak for women-kind. As the opening quote of Chapter One states, “Women might just have something to contribute to civilization other than their vaginas.” When I first read this quote, I thought “haha, that’s witty because it is so obviously true.” However, for Meena, this was the not the case of her entire young life.
My mind draws a parallel between these women locked away in brothels to women in America who suffer domestic abuse. In my work at the National Suicide Hotline, I was not allowed to call the police about domestic abuse. If I did call it is likely that the police would go to the residence, but the woman would lie and protect her abuser, and when the police left the abuser could beat up his victim again for getting him in trouble. This seems so similar to the women in forced prostitution because even though they do not want to be in their situation, they may stay out of fear for their children or lack of outside support. Attempts to leave will usually result in beatings or death.
The section in the book that focused on Cambodia left me feeling like I should be donating money in order for more young women to not have to enter sex trafficking. There are children in Cambodia that drop out of school in order to make two dollars a day to support their families! This makes me sadder than the Sarah Mclachlan commercials.
Half the Sky says that people become slaves because other people see these slaves as lesser humans. They are from supposed lesser cultures, classes, castes, and other countries. Those deemed as “less” can be used for money and pleasure of the greater person. This is ethnocentrism at it’s worst.
I could go on for days, lamenting other countries and the horrors of the world- but prior to opening Half the Sky, I had no knowledge of sex trafficking. My largest encounter with this topic was probably a viewing of the Liam Neeson film Taken. My thoughts inspired by this film were mostly 1) I wish I had a badass dad 2) don’t travel oversees without a man and 3) virgins really don’t die in movies, do they? Guess it isn’t really the same scenario when you are a twelve year old impoverished Cambodian virgin that has been sold into sex slavery.
Half the Sky is sensational, gut-wrenching, and mind-blowing. It has spawned fundraising, a documentary, a movement, and even a Facebook game. Pick your poison.