Here are a few more quotes I pulled from Half the Sky before relinquishing it to the library.

Rape has become endemic in South Africa, so a medical technician named Sonette Ehlers developed a product that immediately grabbed national attention there. ... [The Rapex] resembles a tube, with barbs inside.  The woman inserts it like a tampon, with an applicator, and any man who tries to rape the woman impales himself on the barbs and must go to to an emergency room to have the Rapex removed.  When critics complained that it was a medieval punishment, Ehlers responded tersely:  "A medieval device for a medieval deed."

There's a certain poetic justice in the device, for sure, though I believe the inventor is slandering the medieval era.  One can only hope the women survive the mens' reactions.  Though rape is famously the "fate worse than death," I'm not sure the victims in Darfur would agree.

In Darfur, after interviewing several women who told of having been raped when leaving their camps to get firewood, we asked the obvious question:  "If women are raped when they get firewood, then why don't they stay in the camps?  Why don't the men collect firewood?"

"When men leave the camp, they're shot dead," one of the women explained patiently.  "When the women leave they're only raped."  In almost every conflict, mortality is disporportionately male.  Bult whereas men are the normal victims of war, women have become a weapon of war—meant to be disfigured or tortured to terrorize the rest of the population.

There are good practical as well as cultural reasons for women to accept abuse rather than fight back and risk being killed.  But the reality is that as long as women and girls allow themselves to be prostituted and beaten, the abuse will continue.  When more girls scream and protest, when they run away from the brothels, then the business model of trafficking will be undermined.

The response of an Indian border guard, when asked why they were making no effort to stop the trafficking of Nepalese girls to prostitution in India:

The intelligence officer laughed genially and threw up his hands.  "Prostitution is inevitable."  He chuckled.  "There has always been prostitution in every country.  And what's a young man going to do from the time when he turns eighteen until when he gets married at thirty?"

"Well, is the best solution really to kidnap Nepali girls and imprison them in Indian brothels?"

The officer shrugged, unperturbed.  "It's unfortunate," he agreed.  "These girls are sacrificed so that we can have harmony in society.  So that good girls can be safe."

But many of the Nepali girls being trafficked are good girls, too."

"Oh, yes, but those are peasant girls.  They can't even read.  They're from the countryside.  The good Indian middle-class girls are safe. ...

"I've got it!  You know, in the United States we have a lot of problem with harmony in society.  So we should start kidnapping Indian middle-class girls and forcing them to work in brothels in the United States. Then young American men could have fun, too, don't you think?  That would improve our harmony in society!"

There was an ominous silence, but finally the police officer roared with laughter.

"You are joking!" the officer said, beaming.  "That's very funny!"

In 2000, the Netherlands formally legalized prostitution (which had always been tolerated) in the belief that it would then be easier to provide health and labor checks to prostitutes, and to keep minors and trafficking victims from taking up the trade.  In 1999, Sweden took the opposite approach, criminalizing the purchase of sexual services, but not the sale of them by prostututes; a man caught paying for sex is fined (in theory, he can be imprisoned for up to six months), while the prostitute is not punished.  This reflected the view that the prostitute is more a victim than a criminal.

A decade later, Sweden's crackdown seems to have been more successful in reducing trafficking and forced prostitution.  The number of prostitutes in Sweden dropped by 41 percent in the first five years, according to one count, and the price of sex dropped, too—a pretty good indication that demand was down. ... [T]hat decline has made Sweden a less attractive destination for traffickers ... [the girls are] taken to Holland instead.  In the Netherlands, legalization has facilitated health checkups ... but there's no evidence that sexually transmitted diseases ... or HIV has declined.  Pimps in the Netherlands still offer underage girls, and trafficking and forced prostitution continue. ... Customers can easily find an underage Eastern European girl working as a prostitute in Amsterdam, but not in Stockholm.

[P]ast attempts to assist girls have sometimes backfired.  In 1993, Senator Tom Harkin wanted to help Bangladeshi girls laboring in sweatshops, so he introduced legislation that would have banned imports made by workers under the age of fourteen.  Bangladeshi factories promptly fired tens of thouseands of these young girls, and many of them ended up in brothels and are presumably now dead of AIDS.

The economic explosion in Asia was, in large part, an outgrowth of the economic empowerment of women.  "They have smaller fingers, so they're better at stitching," the manager of a purse factory explained to us.  "They're obedient and work harder than men," said the head of a toy factory.  "And we can pay them less."

Implicit in what we're saying about China is something that sounds shocking to many Americans: Sweatshops have given women a boost. ... In poor countries, women don't have many job options.  In agriculture,for example, women typically aren't as strong as men and thus are paid less.  Yet in the manufacturing workd, it's the opposite. ... So the rise of manufacturing has generally raised the opportunities and status of women.

Microfinance has done more to bolster the status of women, and to protect them from abuse, than any laws could accomplish.  Capitalism, it turns out, can achieve what charity and good intentions sometimes cannot.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 8:49 am | Edit
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