Femme fa­tal

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - OPENERS -

Sev­eral years ago, two Pulitzer Prize-win­ning jour­nal­ists went to their pub­lisher and agent with an hor­rific story. Mil­lions of peo­ple were be­ing mur­dered, they said. Mil­lions of oth­ers were dy­ing of ne­glect, tor­ture, vi­o­lence, star­va­tion. En­tire na­tional economies were be­ing af­fected. It would make a great book, they said. The pub­lisher and the agent yawned. They went: oh yeah? You reckon peo­ple will be in­ter­ested?

Rewind. Sev­eral years ago, two jour­nal­ists went to their pub­lisher and agent with a ter­ri­ble tale of how mil­lions of

were be­ing mur­dered ... Ah. The emo­tive dif­fer­ence be­tween “peo­ple” and “women” tells us just how far the world hasn’t come. It also helps ex­plain why the world – as Ni­cholas D. Kristof and his wife and co-author Sh­eryl WuDunn dis­cov­ered – too of­ten doesn’t seem to care if women do live. As a re­sult, up to 100 mil­lion women are missing to­day, they write in their book

It is a cat­a­logue of rou­tine cru­elty and cal­lous­ness through Africa, Asia and into Europe; the mil­lions of deaths due not just to hon­our killings, vi­o­lence, rape, sex traf­fick­ing and abor­tion of fe­male foe­tuses, but to de­pri­va­tion, ma­ter­nal mor­tal­ity and de­nial of med­i­cal care, be­cause girls don’t mat­ter as much as boys. Mil­lions of other women live wretch­edly.

But, ar­gue the au­thors, coun­tries that ed­u­cate women and look af­ter them do bet­ter eco­nom­i­cally. Econ­o­mists call it “the girl ef­fect”. They work, start small busi­nesses. Their chil­dren are health­ier, go to school. That mes­sage and the nu­mer­ous sto­ries of women and men re­sist­ing the bar­bar­ity make this book sur­pris­ingly up­lift­ing. Pub­lished in the US a year ago, it was an in­stant best­seller. Now, it has been pub­lished here. It

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