15 in a Billion

With 1.4 billion citizens, mainland China is the world's most populous country—and home to one in five women on our planet, from rice farmers to multimillionaires. Photographer Kate Peters and writer Abigail Haworth capture a portrait of a nation in dramatic flux through 15 women.

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November 5, 2012 11:00 AM
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Sex Worker

San Mei, 25

In booming cities like Shenzhen, nightlife for businessmen is not complete without glamorous girls to entertain them. Thousands of rural women like San Mei work in karaoke bars and clubs, providing sex on demand for about $40 per customer. San Mei's parents, from the poor Hunan province, were fined for violating the one-child policy when she was born because she was their third daughter. (San Mei, her given name, means "third daughter.") She says she is working in the sex industry to "help pay them back." She also supports her 5-year-old daughter from a relationship with a married man.