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