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Ruchira Gupta, (born 7 January 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. 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[update], she continues to serve as the organization's president.
She works to expose the connection between trafficking and prostitution as well as to demand a societal shift which acknowledges that male demand for prostitution is what continues, furthers and perpetuates trafficking.
Journalism and UN career
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 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. 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.
Her publications on trafficking include:
- Trafficking Responses in Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia: Needs, Capacity assessment and Recommendations
- Trafficking in the Asia and Near East region: Problem analysis and Proposed framework for response; Kosovo plan of action to counter trafficking in persons
- Manual for law-enforcement officers to confront Demand for Human trafficking
- Training Manual for Prosecutors - On Confronting Human Trafficking
After completing her 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 10 March 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., 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 .
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.
Awards and recognition
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. 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. Her documentary The Selling of Innocents, on sex-trafficking in Nepal and India, won a News & Documentary Emmy Award in 1996.
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.
In 2011 Lucy Liu released her 20-minute directorial debut on human trafficking, Meena, which tells the story of a rescue mission to help a young woman save her daughter from the cycle of the sex trade. Meena Haseena was sold to the sex trade by her uncle at the age of 8 years old, and this film portrays her alliance with Ruchira Gupta and their effort to rescue her daughter from the brothel she only recently escaped herself. Her fight to save her daughter Naina, who had been taken from her at birth, and forced into prostitution is the heart of this film and is based on the first chapter of the book Half the Sky, written by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.
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.
On 25 September 2014, Ruchira Gupta was honored among 35 other women by the All Ladies League (ALL) in Delhi for their various achievements. The ALL is the country's first all women chamber which held its Grassroots Women of the Decade Achievers Awards.
On 8 March 2015, Gupta gave the keynote speech at the NGO Committee on the Status of Women New York (NGOCSW/NY) Forum at the Apollo, to commence the start of the UN CSW 59 Consultation Day. On the following day, she was awarded the 2015 NGOCSW/NY Woman of Distinction Award for her tireless efforts to end sex trafficking by emphasizing the link between trafficking and prostitution laws and lobbying policy makers to shift blame from victims to perpetrators.
Documentaries that Gupta has worked on include:
- The Brotherhood. The RSS, BBC. 1993.
- Zero Hour. A 13 episode Indian Quiz show with Parliamentarians. BITV. 1994.
- The Selling of Innocents. Documentary on sex-trafficking from Nepal to Mumbai, India, screened on CBC and HBO. 1997.
- 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.
- Rape for Profit. (Life in the Mumbai Brothel): Newsnight, BBC. 1999.
- Saffron Warriors - Series 3 of Unreported World, Channel 4, UK, 2003 on Nazi style Hindu fundamentalism in India.
- Land of the Missing Children - Series 9 of Unreported World, Channel 4, UK, 2005, on teenage sex-slavery in India.
- Paul Merton in India, BBC, Channel 5, UK. 2008.
She also contributed to the scripted film Meena: Based On A True Story, Lucy Liu, Colin K. Gray, and Megan Raney, 2011.
- Move to End Violence: Building Movement for Social Change. Advisory Committee Member.
- Steering Committee Member and contributor to Report on Empowerment of Women and Development of Children for the Eleventh Plan.
- Government of India, Planning Commission (Social Justice and Welfare Division, 2011).
- Gupta, Ruchira (2011), "Pornography in India", in Tankard Reist, Melinda; Bray, Abigail, Big Porn Inc.: exposing the harms of the global pornography industry, North Melbourne, Victoria: Spinifex Press, pp. 239–248, ISBN 9781876756895.
- "Ruchira Gupta, Founder of Apne Aap, India" (PDF). United Nations. Retrieved 19 August 2009.
- "Cool Men Don't Buy Sex". Pass Blue.
- "Trust Women". Trust Women.
- "Press Release". United Nations.
- "Training Manual for Prosecutors on Confronting Human Trafficking" (PDF). United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
- "Supply Side: The "Organizing for Independence" Concept". www.apneaap.org. Retrieved 2015-10-17.
- "Anti-rape Bill passed". The Hindu. 2013-03-21. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2015-10-17.
- "Speech Text" (PDF). United Nations.
- "Speech Text" (PDF). United Nations.
- "Catharine MacKinnon, "Trafficking, Prostitution, and Inequality"". www.law.uchicago.edu. Retrieved 2015-10-17.
- "Affiliations". Rose Collar Foundation.
- "Ruchira Gupta". Half the Sky.
- "Global Citizen Awards 2009". Clinton Foundation.
- "UK award for anti-trafficking activist Ruchira Gupta" (PDF). India eNews. Retrieved 19 August 2009.
- "Lucy Lui shoots for victims of trafficking". indiatoday.intoday.in. Retrieved 2015-10-17.
- "Shri. M. Venkaiah Naidu at ALL Ladies League WODAA Event". Women Economic Forum. Retrieved 2015-10-17.
- "Ruchira's keynote speech at NGO CSW/NY Forum Consultation Day before the start of UN CSW 59". apneaap.org. Retrieved 2015-10-17.
- "2015 Recipient - NGO Committee on the Status of Women, NY". NGO Committee on the Status of Women, NY. Retrieved 2015-10-17.
- "Advisory Committee - Move to End Violence". Retrieved 2016-10-01.
- Ruchira Gupta (Editor) As if Women Matter: The Essential Gloria Steinem Reader Rupa Publications. India Pvt. Ltd., 2014. New Delhi.
- Nai Duniya 2013
- The Fallen Women of Prerna India Today 2013
- Banjaron aur Janjatiyon ke saath insaaf ho, Swaraj Khaar 2013
- CNN Reports on Latest Assault and Gang Rape
- Kristof, Nicholas D.; and WuDunn, Sheryl. Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, Vintage Books, 2010. ISBN 978-0-307-38709-7
- McCormick, Patricia. Sold, Hyperion Books, 2006. ISBN 978-0-7868-5171-3
- Solomon, Rivka. That Takes Ovaries!: Bold Females and Their Brazen Acts, Three Rivers Press, 2002. ISBN 978-0-609-80659-3
- Morris, Holly. Adventure Divas: Searching the Globe for Women Who Are Changing the World, Villard, 2006. ISBN 978-0-375-76063-1
- Jain, Niharika and Tara Suri, A Lack of Transparency, The Harvard Crimson, 2010.
- Shuyun, Sun. Ten Thousand Miles without a Cloud, Harper Perennial, 2004. ISBN 978-0-00-712974-4
- Hayward, Ruth. Breaking the Earthenware Jar: Lessons from South Asia to End Violence Against Women and Girls, United Nations, 2000. ISBN 978-92-806-3574-4
- Jahanbegloo, Ramin. India Revisited: Conversations on Contemporary India, Oxford University Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-19-568944-0
- Surti, Aabid. In the Name of Rama, Act Now for Harmony and Democracy, 2003. ASIN B004I90I88
- Shelly, Louise. Human Trafficking: A Global Perspective, George Mason University, 2010. ISBN 978-0-521-11381-6
- Apne Aap Women Worldwide
- Ruchira Gupta on IMDb
- Ruchira Gupta addresses the White House
- Indian Express, July 2009 --Red Light Despatch-the newsletter for women in prostitution by women in prostitution
- To Let/For Sale? by Ruchira Gupta
- "5 Years of ANHAD: 2003-2008". ANHAD. 6 September 2008. Retrieved 9 December 2012.