In Half the Sky, we meet women and girls from around the world. What concerns/issues of women did you notice in developing countries? List at least five and discuss the issues with specific examples/stories from the book.  

Five issues for women in developing countries that are discussed in Half the Sky are child sex trafficking, prostitution, rape, coerced marriage, and maternal mortality. Cases relating to the first two issues include those of Srey Rath and Meena Hasina. Usha Narayane spoke out against a gang of rapists, while Woineshet Zebene’s refusal to marry her rapist helped change a law. The authors explore reasons for Prudence Lemokouno’s death in childbirth.

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Among the many challenges that women face in less developed countries, sex trafficking of children is emphasized. Additionally, there is the closely related issue of prostitution; gender-based violence, including honor killings and sexual assault; and numerous health-related issues, especially maternal mortality. Throughout the book, the authors use interviews with girls and women they met while conducting research, as well as information from family members of deceased females.

The book begins by exploring sex trafficking of minors, focusing on girls, and situates this problem within the larger issue of prostitution. Srey Rath of Cambodia was fifteen years old when she was forced into sex work after being deceived about other employment. Meena Hasina was about eight when she was kidnapped, raped, and put to work in a brothel, where she later bore two children before escaping.

Other aspects of gender-based violence that the book analyzes are rape and associated violent retaliation against women who report the crime. Usha Narayane of India is featured. She spoke out against a group of alleged rapists, who retaliated by threatening her; in turn, her actions led to the arrest and female vigilante killing of the primary suspect.

The relationship of marriage and sexual assault is addressed through the case of Woineshet Zebene of Ethiopia, who was raped at age thirteen by a man who expected to marry her. Marriage would have legally prevented her from charging him with rape, but her father not only blocked the marriage but successfully lobbied to have the law changed.

Among the many health issues that women face, high rates of maternal mortality are prevalent in many less developed countries. Women often die during pregnancy, in childbirth, and while the baby is very young. Infant mortality is often correspondingly high. The authors profile Prudence Lemokouno of Cameroon, who died while in labor for numerous reasons, including a doctor’s delay in performing a c-section.

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