Ruchira Gupta

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Ruchira Gupta, (born January 7, 1964), is an Indian sex trafficking abolitionist, journalist and activist. She has worked for over 25 years to end sex trafficking and has been honored for her work by nations, governmental leaders, and organizations on a global scale.[1] In 2002, she established Apne Aap Women Worldwide, a nongovernmental organization known as Apne Aap, which addresses women's rights and the eradication of human sex trafficking. Apne Aap has organized over 15,000 women and girls trapped in or at risk of prostitution in India. As of 2013, she continues to serve as the organization's president.

She works to expose the connection between trafficking and prostitution[2] as well as to demand a societal shift which acknowledges that male demand for prostitution is what continues, furthers and perpetuates trafficking.[3]

Journalism and UN Career[edit]

Gupta began her career as a journalist, working for The Telegraph Newspaper (Kolkata, India), The Sunday Observer (Kolkata, India), Business India Magazine (Delhi, India), and British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) South Asia (Delhi, India). During her journalism career she extensively covered women's rights, armed struggles in the north-east of India, caste conflict, and minority issues. She won an Emmy for outstanding investigative journalism in 1996 for field producing a documentary, The Selling of Innocents, on sex-trafficking from the villages of Nepal to the brothels of India. She continues to write extensively on sex trafficking and women's rights issues for Open Democracy, Pass Blue, CNN, Times of India, The Hindu, The Guardian, among others.

She then moved on to the United Nations, where she worked with the governments of Iran, Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Indonesia, Kosovo, and the Philippines. She supported some of these countries to develop National Action Plans and laws against human trafficking.[4] She has written two manuals on combating trafficking for law enforcement and prosecutors, supported by UNODC and UNIFEM. Gupta also served as a UNICEF contact in October 2000 for the first-ever gathering of Messengers of Peace and Goodwill Ambassadors.[5]

Her publications on trafficking include: a) Trafficking Responses in Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia: Needs, Capacity assessment and Recommendations b) Trafficking in the Asia and Near East region: Problem analysis and Proposed framework for response; Kosovo plan of action to counter trafficking in persons; c) Manual for law-enforcement officers to confront Demand for Human trafficking.; d) Manual for prosecutors to confront human trafficking. Confronting the Demand to End human trafficking: A manual for law-enforcement officers (2002), supported by UNIFEM, was the first manual in the world to teach police officers how to tackle human trafficking by investigating and prosecuting traffickers and clients instead of victims.

Activism career[edit]

After completing her Emmy award-winning documentary, The Selling of Innocents, Ruchira founded Apne Aap Women Worldwide, where she has served as President since 2002. Through her work at Apne Aap, Gupta has given voice to the voiceless by organizing victims and survivors from denotified tribes (labeled criminal tribes by the British), who are trapped in inter-generational prostitution, into Self-empowerment groups. Through these groups, women and girls access education, livelihood training, legal protection and safe housing; and also campaign for changes in the Indian Law. Gupta's leadership in organizing women to campaign for legal change resulted in trafficking being made a penal offense for the first time in Indian history, through the Criminal Law Amendment Act.

Her work in organizing denotified tribes has resulted in two red-light areas in Forbesgunge, Bihar shrinking from 72 brothels to 15 brothels, and 17 to one. Gupta continues to ensure women are able to transform their places of exploitation into a safe spaces for education, job training, loan access and legal protection. Along with staff from Apne Aap, Gupta petitioned on bahalf of survivors of trafficking to the Patna High Court to take action against traffickers and protect victims. On March 10, 2013 a notice was issued by the court to the Bihar government to report back on actions taken against trafficking. Apne Aap has also challenged police corruption and is campaigning for police reform after a staff member from the Nat Denotified Tribe was wrongfully arrested after exposing a trafficking ring. Apne Aap continues to campaign for police reform across India. They also appealed to the National Human Rights Commission of India to challenge police atrocities against Apne Aap staff members who are from denotified tribes.

As part of Gupta's activist career, she also organizes Survivor Conferences and produces the Redlight Dispatch, a newspaper written by and for victims and survivors of prostitution. She has addressed the UN General Assembly two times.,[6][7] the UN Security Council once, and the UN Human Rights Council once to advocate for policies and mechanisms to support victims of trafficking. Her leadership in this area was referenced by feminist activist, Catherine MacKinnon, in her speech: Trafficking, Prostitution and Inequality.

Gupta has testified before the United States Senate, advocating for the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 and lobbied with other activists at the United Nations for the U.N. Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons. This resulted in the first U.N. effort to address demand for trafficking .[8][9]

Teaching career[edit]

Gupta strives to educate the next generation of activists on best practices in combating trafficking. In this respect, she has designed modules on understanding, and tackling, human trafficking for Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi. Since 2012, she has designed and taught courses at New York University's Center for Global Affairs on "Movement Building around Sex Trafficking." Ruchira also teaches courses on modern day slavery at Seton Hall University.

Recognition and Awards[edit]

In 2009, Gupta was the recipient of the Clinton Global Citizen Award for Commitment to Leadership in Civil Society by the Clinton Foundation, established by Bill Clinton, former President of the United States.[10] In 2010, she was chosen to serve as a member of the organization's leadership program, known as CGI Lead. President Clinton created the program to recognize and educate the next generation of global leaders and prepare them to effectively address and take action on the world's most pressing issues. Young leaders chosen from throughout the world include corporate executives, public servants, social entrepreneurs, and NGO managers from among the public, private, and civil sectors.

In 2007, Gupta was honored with the Abolitionist Award by the House of Lords, which is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.[11] She also received an Emmy Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism for her documentary, The Selling of Innocents. Other awards she has won include Times Now Amazing Indians awards: Stree Shakti category (2012); Godfrey Phillips Bravery National Award (2012); ‘Sera Bangali’ honor by Ananda Bazar Patrika (2012); Alumni Achievers Award, presented by Loretto College Alumnae Assocition (2012); Healthy Masculinities Award, presented by Men Can Stop Rape (2012); Karmaveer Puraskaar Civil Society-Trafficking presented by iCONGO (2011); UNA-NY’s Women Who Care Award (2011); Abolitionist Award, presented by Nomi Network (2010).

Gupta sat on the Steering Committee for the Planning Commission of the Government of India for the Eleventh and Twelfth Five-Year Plans, once for Women and Children and once for Social Welfare. She was also on the working group of the Ministry of Women and Children. She has served on the advisory boards of Asia Society, New York, Cents for Relief, US, Nomi Network, US, Ricky Martin Foundation, and Vital Voices, Washington DC. Gupta has been honored at the White House for her work to combat sex trafficking. Her testimony to the United States Senate had a direct role in the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000.

In 2012 Ruchira Gupta was featured in the documentary Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide premiering on PBS October 1 and 2. The series highlights women and girls living in oppression who are bravely fighting to challenge it. The Half the Sky PBS TV series is produced by Show of Force along with Fugitive Films.

Documentaries that she has worked on include
  • Paul Merton in India, BBC, Channel 5, UK, 2008
  • Land of the Missing Children - Series 9 of Unreported World, Channel 4, UK, 2005, on teenage sex-slavery in India.
  • Saffron Warriors - Series 3 of Unreported World, Channel 4, UK, 2003 on Nazi style Hindu fundamentalism in India
  • Rape for Profit. (Life in the Mumbai Brothel): Newsnight, BBC-1999
  • Kali’s Smile: BBC Radio 4, documentary on role of Gods and goddesses in Indian popular culture. 1998
  • Shiva's wedding: BBC Radio 4, documentary on role of Gods and goddesses in Indian popular culture. 1998
  • The Selling of Innocents. (On sex-trafficking from Nepal to Mumbai, India): Documentary screened on CBC and HBO. Awarded the Emmy for outstanding investigative journalism by the US National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in 1997 and used by NGOs, activists, government agencies as educational material to combat trafficking. -1997
  • Zero Hour. A 13 episode Indian Quiz show with Parliamentarians. BITV 1994
  • The Brotherhood. The RSS, BBC, 1993.

Articles by Ruchira Gupta[edit]

Citations[edit]

  • Not a Choice, Not a Job: Exposing the Myths about Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade, by Janice Raymond, Published by Potomac Books (2013)
  • Town of Love, by Anne Otsby, Published by Spinifex (2012)
  • Big Porn, edited by Abigail Bray and Melinda Tankard Resit, Published by Spinifex (2011)
  • All that Is Bitter and Sweet by Ashley Judd, Published by Ballatine Books (2011)
  • Half the Sky:Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Published by Random House (2009)


Interviews[edit]

Speeches[edit]

Further reading[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]