It’s only been in the last fifty years that the United States has begun granting equal rights to women – the right to vote, to own property and to serve in the military. However, across the globe, girls are still undervalued and discriminated against as a result of China’s One-Child Policy.
Because this patriarchal society only permits each family to have one child, thousands of baby girls are abandoned, sold or killed. In addition, many teen girls and women are sold as wives or sex slaves against their wills. The organization “All Girls Allowed” (AGA) is devoted to ending this gender discrimination and urging China’s government to protect their women.
Kathryn Jakuback, a junior attending Spring Hill College in Mobile, AL, introduced the very first collegiate chapter of this amnesty organization in 2011. “When I found out about this group, the more I read about it the more I realized it was too important not to bring to campus,” Jakuback said.
Boys are more valued in China for many reasons, chief among them being that boys can carry on the family name, take care of the family farms common in China, and take care of their parents when they reach old age. On the other hand, girls become a part of the family into which they marry, leaving no one to care for elderly family members.
According to Jakuback and AGA, the vast murder and abduction of girls in China has led to a gender imbalance – millions of men are unable to find wives. Because of this, unwanted girls are traded as child wives or sold into prostitution. There are more than 100 million missing girls in China – that’s about one third of the U.S. population.
A recent photo and story leak about a woman forced to have an abortion has sparked outrage both in China and in the United States. While the original stories and the subsequent settlement with the Chinese government suggest this is an isolated or rare event, Jakuback claims that’s not quite the case.
“Each year, thousands of women are forced to abort their baby girls, sometimes only hours before delivery,” Jakuback said. “A lot of the time, midwives will simply murder the child after birth.”
The practice is more common in rural areas, but illegal ultrasounds to determine the sex of the baby often leads to selective and forced abortions across the country – hence the term “gendercide”. In addition, the government often offers financial incentive to officials to uphold the One Child Policy, leading to more violence and more forced abortions.
Jakuback and the rest of the AGA community is determined to bring the travesties perpetrated in the name of China’s One-Child Policy to light and eventually bring reform through awareness. Some of the projects of AGA include funding the search for China’s missing girls, funding an orphan scholarship fund for rural girls to gain an education and creating the Baby Shower Program to support families that choose to keep their daughters for up to a year.
Spring Hill College’s chapter won the AGA Chapter Challenge in Spring 2011 and was able to send a representative to speak at the Millennium Campus Networking Conference at Harvard University. As the founder and president, Jakuback was asked to attend. At the conference, she urged other college students to get active in the organization by spreading the word, possibly establishing their own campus chapters.
Jakuback acknowledged that for a new organization on a small campus, the club is doing well thus far. “Often, we run into the problem of people saying, ‘Wow, that’s so terrible. Can you please pass the salt?’ But the more we talk about it, the more we can help,” Jakuback encouraged.
The most important thing is to keep spreading the word. There is an easy-to-download letter template on the AGA website that anyone can send to state representatives or even the president, urging a response to the gendercide in China.
We sometimes forget that not all women across the world experience the rights we often take for granted–the right to life is inherent in our birth. China’s One-Child Policy is taking this right away from millions of baby girls. By speaking up and getting involved, hopefully we can one day call this violence, this discrimination and this policy a mistake of the past.
Want to become more involved? Check out more about the organization at AGA’s website: http://www.allgirlsallowed.org.