Our Founder Ruchira Gupta is the NGO CSW/NY Woman of Distinction Awardee for 2015

unnamedAll of us at Apne Aap Women Worldwide are pleased to share some exciting news with you! This year’s NGO CSW/NY Woman of Distinction awardee is our founder Ruchira Gupta. We are so pleased to announce this honor and share our joy with you! Please find the official press release below…

Press Release:

NGO CSW/NY Announces 2015 NGO CSW Woman of the Year Distinction Awardee
January 28, 2015 – New York, NY – The NGO Committee on the Status of Women, NY (NGO CSW/NY), one of three women’s committees of CoNGO that advocates for women’s rights and gender equality, is pleased to announce the 2015 NGO CSW Forum Woman of Distinction awardee, Ruchira Gupta from India, founder of Apne Aap Women Worldwide.

After winning an Emmy for her documentary on sex trafficking, The Selling of Innocents, Gupta started Apne Aap Women Worldwide, an anti-sex trafficking organization in India that empowers more than 20,000 low-caste girls and women and their family members affected by prostitution. She received the Clinton Global Citizen award for giving a voice to the voiceless and for tenaciously standing by the last girl in brothels in Bihar and India.

For over 25 years, Gupta has worked to end sex trafficking by emphasizing the link between trafficking and prostitution laws and lobbying policy makers to shift blame from victims to perpetrators. In 2000, she testified in the United States Senate before the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and addressed the UN General Assembly on human trafficking.

Gupta will be the keynote speaker at the NGO CSW/NY Consultation Day (8 March 2015 at the Apollo Theatre) along with Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of UN Women. The formal presentation of the NGO CSW/NY Woman of Distinction award will take place at the annual NGO Reception (9 March 2015 at the Armenian Convention Center Ballroom, 6 pm–8 pm). This year’s theme of the UN Commission on the Status of Women is the 20th review of the Beijing Platform for Action.

About the Women of Distinction Award:
This annual award is given to a woman in recognition of her leadership in the struggle for gender equality and women’s empowerment. The honoree is a leading activist from a developing country who can address the theme of the CSW, will benefit from participation in Consultation Day, and make a difference when she returns home.

About the NGO Committee on the Status of Women, NY:
The NGO Committee on the Status of Women, NY (NGO CSW/NY) is one of the three women’s committees of the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the UN (CoNGO). Under CoNGO’s umbrella, the NGO CSW committees helped plan the NGO Forums at the UN World Conferences in Mexico, Copenhagen, Nairobi, and Beijing. NGO CSW/NY is a volunteer-based, non-profit NGO funded largely by individual contributions.

Press Release

Products that support survivors of sex-trafficking: Apne Aap organizes a talk about livelihoods and Income Generation Program

New Delhi, 25th February, 2014:- Apne Aap Women Worldwide, a registered charitable trust in India committed to work towards the empowerment of girls and women today organized a session titled ‘Brand Creation- Products that support survivors of sex-trafficking tomorrow’ with Nina Smith,  Executive Director GoodWeave, Dr Jean Baderschneider, leading human rights and anti trafficking activist and Mayank Mansingh Kaul, textile designer, talking about suitable alternative livelihoods to marginalized women, at the Apne Aap office. The discussion revolved around the efforts required to provide vocational training and formation of self help groups to achieve a better quality of life.

Young girls and women from Apne Aap’s Self Empowerment Groups from Dharampura, Najafgarh, Kolkata and Bihar resource centres have been making diyas, candles, jute wallets, wall hangings, folders and similar handmade products. These young girls and women are in the process of empowering themselves through education, awareness of their legal rights and social entitlements and development of livelihood skills.

With the initiation of this new programme for sustainable livelihood enhancements, Apne Aap’s endeavor is to improve access to financial services’ by facilitating capacity building. It operates through Self-Help Groups (SHGs) and focuses on organising women into such groups, while enhancing their access to finance.

Participating in the discussion Ruchira Gupta, Founder President Apne Aap Women Worldwide said, “Many women and girls, who are victims and survivors of prostitution, have joined the movement of Apne Aap in search of livelihood options, by making products and crafts that can be sold to open markets. Some of these women who have been brutalized and traumatised for such long periods, don’t know how to make any products so the question is how do we build a movement around this and how do we sustain the changes we introduce in their lives? Also changing the condition on the ground is not easy as raising awareness about a brand that has social awareness takes time. The idea is to have conscious consumerism;  having a really great product helps but the key is to have something wonderful which will make people want to buy it and then create the brand.”  

Nina Smith, Executive Director, GoodWeave asserted, “The important part of branding is that products with a brand vehicle for raising awareness about sex-trafficking”. Seconding the idea Dr Jean Baderschneider, leading human rights and anti-trafficking activist added, “ The focus should be on economic placement of women in a market, creating skills that help them to stay in the market for the time is how we should be looking at the next steps”.

Moderating the discussion, Mayank Mansingh Kaul added, “The idea to see how design can be applied to a given situation and help in finding solutions. It is very important to have an idea as a design for change through which we can spread awareness about the cause and provoke thinking in the minds of people. With the help of graphics, photos, designs we can create a movement and help Apne Aap create awareness about their cause”.

The session concluded with the audience discussing various measures in which design for change can be implemented at grassroot level.

About Nina Smith,  Executive Director GoodWeave

Nina Smith is the founding executive director of GoodWeave, and has helped to build and lead GoodWeave International operations. She is a tireless advocate for children’s rights and an expert on addressing labor rights violations in manufacturing supply chains. Ms. Smith has presented internationally as well as nationally on these issues at events organized by Harvard University, the American Bar Association: Rule of Law Initiative and Stanford Graduate School of Business, among others. Ms. Smith is a winner of the prestigious Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, acknowledging her work to employ market strategies for social change. In 2012, she received The Center for Nonprofit Advancement’s EXCEL Award for excellence in chief executive leadership, which carries with it a monetary award for continuing leadership development.

A fair trade advocate and expert for two decades, Ms. Smith was formerly the executive director of The Crafts Center, a nonprofit organization providing marketing and technical assistance to indigenous artisans around the world. As president of the Fair Trade Federation (FTF) from 1996 to 1998, she launched FTF’s first consumer awareness campaign. She also

was a crafts export consultant to the Tibetan Government-in-Exile in Dharamsala, India, where she oversaw the development of new market-driven product lines, quality control mechanisms, and artisan training programs. Ms. Smith has served various boards including the FTF and The Tibet Collection. She is a graduate of Tufts University, and is a practitioner affiliate of the Social Enterprise Graduate Degree program at American University. She lives in Maryland with her husband and seven-year-old son.

About Dr Jean Baderschneider, leading human rights and anti trafficking activist

Dr. Jean Baderschneider serves as the Chair of the National Leadership Council of The Polaris Project and is leading a global anti-human trafficking strategy (Vision 2020). Since May 1, 2013, she is also President of End Human Trafficking Now (EHTN), a Geneva, Switzerland based organization focused on engaging the business community in the fight against human trafficking.

Dr. Baderschneider retired from ExxonMobil in February 2013 where she was Vice-President, Global Procurement. She was responsible for all procurement, strategic sourcing, supply chain management, logistics, warehousing and accounts payables worldwide. Over the years, Dr. Baderschneider has traveled and worked extensively all over the world, particularly in Africa, Middle East and Southeast Asia. Dr. Baderschneider is a past member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for Supply Management and the Executive Board of the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC).  She was appointed to the Department of Commerce’s National Advisory Council of Minority Business Enterprises in February 2011.  She is a past board member of The Center of Advanced Purchasing Studies (CAPS) and the Procurement Council of both The Conference Board and the Corporate Executive Board.

Dr. Baderschneider is a member of the Advisory Council for the President Lincoln’s Cottage, a Historic Site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  In addition, she is on the Board of Trustees of the Maret School in Washington, D.C.  She is a member of the Advisory Council of the ILR School at Cornell University and a long time member of Cornell’s President’s Council of Cornell Women. Dr. Baderschneider has a Masters degree from University of Michigan and a Ph.D. from Cornell University.

About Mayank Mansingh Kaul

Mayank is a Delhi-based textile-fashion designer working with contemporary hand-crafts, and is simultaneously involved with policy matters related to the development of creative and cultural industries in India.  He is the Founding-Director of The Project India, a not-for-profit organisation looking at archiving projects related to Indian design. A design curator, he curated The Idea of Fashion, a residency and show bringing Fashion designers and artists together, at the Khoj International Artists Residency in Delhi (2011); was on the curatorial team of the Second Edition of The United Art Fair (Sept 2013); and is curator of Fracture – a show on contemporary textiles at the Devi Art Foundation (Upcoming, 2014). As a design writer, he writes for leading Indian and International magazines, and is Issue Editor of Take on Art Design (2012) and an upcoming Indo-French publication on contemporary Indian design (2014).

Field realities from denotified tribes: Apne Aap organizes a talk about the exclusion, deprivation and state of discrimination of the tribes

Swati and RuchiraNew Delhi, 10th February, 2014:- Apne Aap Women Worldwide, a registered charitable trust in India committed to work towards the empowerment of girls and women today organized its seventh session of ‘Terrace Talks’ at their head-office at India International Centre, New Delhi. The talk was chaired by Swati Chakraborty, Head-Monitoring & Evaluation at Apne Aap Women Worldwide. The discussion revolved around ‘Field realities from denotified tribes’.

The ongoing study on the educational status of de-notified Tribes by Apne Aap Women Worldwide in the states of Delhi, Rajasthan, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal clearly shows that these communities are still treated as outsiders by society and discriminated and victimized by authorities. Suspicion and traditional stereotyping (as criminal) is still a standard yardstick with which these communities are looked at. This is due to both conventional belief as well as ignorance about them among the authorities as well as the general public.

The session further delved around the findings of the study, where Swati and the team found  that young girls were seen as a financial resource and often  kept as security with brothel owners for a specified time period against a specified amount in case of familial dispute.  It threw light on the incidents when poor families have been forced to use their daughters more than once. There are endless stories of extreme exploitation of young girls and women .One member of Kanjar communities told the study team: doh hi chiz to bikte hain. ek hain aurat r ek hain zameen. hum logo ke paas to zameen hain nehi—toh aurat hi bech te hain.Aur keya kar sakte hain. (Two things can be sold—one is women and other island. We do not have land so we sell our woman. What else we can do).

Participating in the discussion Abhilasha Kumari, Director Apne Aap Women Worldwide said, “Many of these denotified tribes practice inter-generational prostitution which is the extreme form of exploitation of young girls. Being an anti trafficking grassroots organization, Apne Aap came into the picture largely because we wanted to create an impact about this practice. We consider that every child that is put into prostitution is trafficked. We realized most of the people didn’t know about denotified tribes so we took the help from ICSSR. ICSSR has supported this research and provided us with authentic information and evidence. These findings will help us to develop, strategies and policy formulation for the development of these communities”.

Elucidating on the denotified tribes study , Swati Chakraborty highlighted how across the states, despite being extremely poor and low on all human resources indices,  this study found that de-notified communities are not entitled to the various government schemes meant for the poor and backward communities. There is abject poverty among them across states. Police find it convenient to hold these communities responsible for any crimes both in rural and urban areas. Speaking at the session, she said It is very easy to show  through statistics  how many children are not attending school, but the reason why they are not going or what  are the factors that are pushing them away can  only be known by having a field experience and by conducting studies of this kind”.

The session concluded with the audience discussing various measures to implement the much needed reforms towards the cause of these tribes.

Eve Ensler, global activist lends support to Apne Aap survivor-leaders in their struggle to access justice

New Delhi, 13th December, 2013:- Eve Ensler, renowned activist, feminist and award-winning author of ‘The Vagina Monologues’ who is on a short trip to India visited the Apne Aap office in Delhi, to interact with the survivor-leaders and to understand the struggles they face in accessing justice against a corrupt law-enforcement and indifferent judicial system.

In a discussion moderated by Ruchira Gupta, Founder & President of Apne Aap Women Worldwide, Eve spoke with survivor-leaders M. Kalam and Fatima Khatoon on what justice meant to them and the groups they represented. The two survivor-leaders have been supported at Apne Aap’s center in  Forbesganj, Bihar for several years.

The conversation focused on efforts initiated by Apne Aap and their call for justice to be delivered– by demanding the dropping of false charges of trafficking against Kalam in 2012, by a response and action to the PIL initiated by Apne Aap that questioned the status of measures and safeguards undertaken to address human trafficking in the state of Bihar.

Supporting Apne Aap’s mission to end sex trafficking in India, Eve said, “One Billion Rising is not just about the last person, it is also about the ones in the front. I support Apne Aap and their survivor-leaders for the relentless struggles and the adversities they have suffered.” She further added, “The V-day will award Fatima Khatoon and Md Kalam 10,000 US dollars each and extend support to get those trafficking ring leaders arrested”.

“I want to ask the government how is India free when there are women like us who have no choices and are truly not free in any way due to prostitution”, Fatima said in her conclusion. Md Kalam added “Due to this kind of violence we have had no acceptance at any level for us to grow. Even though we are a developing country, if we are left behind in this way, it will not be a development in the real way”.

Eve also applauded the members of Apne Aap for their efforts and passion to reach out to vulnerable communities affected by sex trafficking, whereby these survivor-leaders have emerged as winners in their struggles.

Appreciating Eve’s participation in addressing the issue of violence against women and her efforts in getting people together across the world, Ruchira Gupta, said, “Movements have to start from the bottom and get transferred to the top. This conversation with Fatima and Md Kalam from Forbesganj’s red light area of Bihar was to bridge the voice of the ‘last’ activists from backward class and Dalit community and their struggle to access justice. With Eve’s One Billion Women Rising, the effort was to give solidarity to these backward people from Bihar,   to help get their children out of there and have the traffickers arrested. And now, as part of One Billion Rising, Apne Aap’s leaders Kalam and Fatima will launch a movement to get these traffickers arrested”.

The Apne Aap cause and initiatives have received international support by activists and dignitaries like Gloria Steinem, Ashley Judd, Ashton Kutcher, Ricky Martin, Hillary Clinton, and Justin Hilton among others

Fact Sheet: Background on survivor-leaders

Fatima Khatoon  is from the Khawaspur red-light area of Bihar where she has rescued many girls and enrolled them in the KGBV hostel. Her father belongs to a semi-nomadic community called Nat and her mother too belongs to a very poor and marginalized community called Dhunia. Due to the severe state of poverty Fatima was married off when she was only nine to a man almost twenty years older to her. The only criterion for the marriage was that the man had a house. She soon found out that she was married into a brothel and the husband was a trafficker. Fatima started to resist her husband and in-laws and even helped four other women, trafficked in her house, escape from there. For this Fatima faced severe beatings by her in-laws.

In 2004, when Apne Aap started its community center inside the red light area in Forbesganj, Fatima was one among the first two women who started coming to the community center. She has started the first woman’s group inside the red light area along with Meena and Jamila. Fatima is now leading Apne Aap Girls’ program in Uttari Rampur red light area. A mother of six children, Fatima has played a very crucial role in organizing women to fight for their own rights and the rights of their daughters to live their lives free of sexual exploitation.

She has been a prime investigator against trafficking rings. She and her daughter have been constantly attacked by the traffickers who try to keep her daughter from going to school. Last year a police official kept her 14-year old daughter illegally in a police lock up all night. She has appealed to the NHRC and Bihar government for counseling for her daughter and accountability of the police officer who did this to her to avail.

Fatima is one of the most important survivor-leaders of Apne Aap who is a vehement spokesperson against prostitution as a ‘choice’ for women because she believes that nobody wants ‘to sell their dreams’.

Md. Kalam is from the Rampur red-light area of Forbesganj Bihar. He hails from the Nat community, who were labeled a Criminal Tribe by the British. They were subsequently stigmatized and marginalized and cut off from jobs, and education and even access to justice. Members of the community are trapped in inter-generational prostitution including Kalam’s own sisters. Kalam has stood up and put many traffickers in jail. Last year, after a sting operation against a trafficking ring, he was falsely implicated and kept in a police lock up for five nights. Even though later police investigations reveals that he had been falsely arrested charges against Kalam have still not been dropped.

On behalf of the Nat Community of Rampur, a PIL was initiated by Apne Aap asking the Bihar government the status on the what measures were being undertaken to address human trafficking in the state of Bihar. The PIL further appealed for the dropping of charges against Kalam’s pending case, who after his initial arrest was released since police investigations revealed that the wrong person was arrested. Apne Aap has demands that the police withdraw their case in the light of their own investigations.

Apne Aap Calls on Parliament to Delete Section 377 and Legalize Consensual Same-Sex Relations in India

New Delhi, 12 December 2013:

377

Apne Aap calls on Indian Parliamentarians to delete Section 377 I.P.C, a 153-year-old colonial-era law, defining homosexuality as  “unnatural offenses” and punishable by a 10-year jail term. India has been independent for sixty-six years.

In our own culture, we never limited ourselves to the binary boxes of “masculine” or “feminine.” We have gods/goddesses who are both male and female like the Ardhanareshwara. Many of our languages, like Bengali, often didn’t even have “he” or “she”.

We know today that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people, are living out real, authentic lives. Yet they continue to be denied employment or a promotion, or are fired, simply for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender at best, or face physical assault with no legal protection at worst. In fact, many members of the LGBT community are trafficked and sold for sex, simply because of vulnerabilities caused by homelessness or workplace discrimination.

They are bravely speaking up about their sexual orientation and gender and asking not to be punished for either. Those lives should be celebrated, not questioned.They are part of the full human continuum of identity and expression.

We emphasize that this change in law should not be done through the court but through our elected Parliament. The last thing we want is the subversion of our democracy in which the judiciary oversteps its boundaries and takes over the work of the elected legislature. We believe that the separation of the judiciary and the legislature is the only safeguard of a healthy democracy. Judges are appointed, not elected.

Parliament has to reverse the wrongs of British colonial laws enacted to control sexuality: on one hand they set up licensed brothels for the sale of disease free women to British soldiers and clerks under the Contagious Diseases Act, and on the other, they banned freely chosen same-sex relationships under Section 377 of the IPC.

As feminists, we ask legislatures to shed their patriarchal bias against those who cannot reproduce. The government needs to distinguish between homosexuality and pedophilia and sex and sexual exploitation.

There is much similarity between the challenges of LGBT and Queer people and all women: from health care to harassment to discrimination in the workplace. As feminists know, power over our own minds and bodies comes first. Together, we with LGBT and Queer people are learning the deepest lesson: that there is always the basic patriarchal bias against any sexual expression that can’t end in conception.

It’s time that law passed.

 

Apne Aap Women Worldwide Partners with Move to End Violence

New Delhi, 14 November 2013

A group of 24 women’s rights activists from the US are visiting New Delhi and Kolkata from November 14- 21 in collaboration with anti-sex-trafficking organization,  Apne Aap Women Worldwide to understand grassroots movement building from a Gandhian-Indian perspective  and build solidarity for the global cause of ending violence against women.

The leaders are from leading NGO’s like NoVo Foundation, Asian and Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence, Caring Across Generations, Miami Workers Center and Movement Strategy Center among others and are part of the ‘Move to End Violence’ (MEV) program.  MEV is a 10-year old program of the NoVo Foundation designed to strengthen leaders, organizations, and ultimately work to end violence against girls and women in the United States.

The delegates will share ideas, vision and develop strategies with the group of Indian NGO’s and activists from organisations like Apne Aap Women Worldwide, Dalit Women’s Forum, SEWA, MASUM, SWAYAM among others to put an end to violence through this transnational collaboration. The group will also interact with policy makers like Gopal Subramaniam, former Solicitor General of India  and member of Justice Verma Committee, P M Nair, Retd IPS officer, Jaya Jaitley, Founder and President of Dastakari Haat Samiti in Delhi and activists in Kolkata to understand the socio-economic context of Apne Aap’s work against sex trafficking.

The civil society leaders will begin their journey from Gandhi Smriti in New Delhi interacting with Dalit Feminist leader Dr. Ruth Manorama to build an understanding of  how movements are built , followed by a nukkad natak performance by the de-notified tribe’s Bhudhan Theatre group at Jantar Mantar, also known as India’s famous site for resistance. To build an understanding of the relationship between the craft movement and women’s empowerment a session will also take place at the craft bazaar at Dilli Haat. Eden Gardens will be first stop for the group at Kolkata where the group will interact with Apne Aap’s self-empowerment groups of survivor of prostitution and see the upliftment of the last girl through Rabindranath Tagore’s Vishwa Bharati University in Shantiniketan.

Explaining the reason for this exchange, Ruchira Gupta, Founder of Apne Aap said: “Sisterhood is global and this initiative is important because grassroots activists are exchanging ideas and experiences to not only know that there is a commonality in our inequalities but also by working together we become a more powerful pressure group and are able to change laws and policies in our countries. Powerful groups like corporations and governments must interact with each-other to challenge power structures across national boundaries. ”

With Apne Aap Women Worldwide, these civil society leaders plan to build transnational relationships towards a global cause and to stimulate learning with new perspectives for both U.S. and Indian activists, particularly around areas of violence and social change this visit.

Apne Aap’s approach sees prostitution as a system of violence against women based on supply and demand. The supply is composed of marginalized girls and women whose choices are reduced because of class, caste and gender inequality. The demand is composed of men whose choice to buy or rape women is condoned by a society that has normalized male domination and a law that provides almost total impunity for the purchase of sex.

Apne Aap Women World wide’s cause and initiatives have received international support by activists and dignitaries like Gloria Steinem, Hillary Clinton, Ashley Judd, Ashton Kutcher, Ricky Martin, and Justin Hilton among others.

 

Fahmida Riaz, progressive writer and Pakistani women’s activist at the Apne Aap Terrace Talks session

New Delhi, 30th October, 2013: Apne Aap Women Worldwide, a registered charitable trust in India committed to work towards the empowerment of girls and women organized its session of ‘Terrace Talks’ at their head-office at India International Centre, New Delhi. The session was a conversation between Fahmida Riaz, a renowned Pakistani Urdu writer, poet and feminist and Ruchira Gupta revolving around ‘feminism in Pakistan’.

Fahmida Riaz is one of the most powerful feminist voices in South Asia and has actively participated in social and political activities during her academic life. A leading Urdu writer and poet, she also serves as head of the Urdu Dictionary Board of Pakistan. Sharing her views on men and women, society, traditions and culture in Pakistan, Riaz talked about the struggle for women’s rights within Pakistan as well as her encounters with successive suppressive regimes.

The interactive session was organized to reach out to students, academicians and lovers of poetry to understand the rise of feminism movement in Pakistan and how it advocated for equal political, economic and social privileges for women.

Elucidating about the dynamics of feminism in Pakistan Fahmida Riaz shared, “It was really nice to be among young women and men ant it was a great experience. At this point the feminism in India is very closely link to Pakistan , the greatest hurdle in Pakistan is to commute safely and for this we need better laws and jurisdiction.”

Participating in the discussion, Ruchira Gupta, Founder and President Apne Aap Women Worldwide said “Terrace talk is an initiative to start a dialogue among young people , on issues relating to sex trafficking and also to know the root cause of sex trafficking , which can be inequality among rich and poor , men & women , upper cast & lower cast and through these talks we are trying to bring these issues amongst the masses , the youth .”

Fahmida who is also the director of WADA (Women and Development Association), an NGO for the development of women’s education and awareness, was supportive of Apne Aap’s mission to end human slavery and sex trafficking in India and applauded their continuing efforts.

Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, Minister of Women’s Rights, France supports Apne Aap in combating ‘Human Trafficking’

New Delhi, 25th October, 2013:- Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, Minister of Women’s Rights, France who is on a short trip to India visited the Apne Aap centre in Najafgarh, to meet the women and girls, survivors of intergenerational prostitution, who are now being imparted skill development courses and other alternate livelihood training by Apne Aap to become self reliant and confident to lead independent- dignified lives.

Najat has taken up the issue of prostitution and sex trafficking very seriously in France. This is the French Minister’s first visit to India after being appointed to the French government and defending women rights, promoting gender equality, and fighting human trafficking are on the agenda for her visit.

Supporting Apne Aap’s mission to end human slavery and sex trafficking in India, while interacting with the survivors at the Najafgarh centre Najat said, “I had the good fortune to meet Ruchira a few weeks ago in Paris and I was very impressed with her commitment & her sincerity to put an end towards any kind of exploitation of women. So I decided to support her during my visit and see her centre.”

She further added,” People with good intentions must help each other. If we need to bring new laws to change mentalities we need to convince people that it is not normal to buy sex and I see in Ruchira a great and committed activist.”

She also applauded the students and staff members for their sincere efforts and their enthusiasm to work towards a more sustainable means of earning their livelihood.

Appreciating Najat Vallaud’s keen desire to understand and address the issue of violence against women and her continuing efforts to lead the fight against human trafficking in her European Union Strategy, Ruchira Gupta, founder President, Apne Aap Women Worldwide (AAWW) said, “We are honored to have Najat Vallaud-Belkacem between us and appreciate her support to Apne Aap’s fight against sex trafficking. It’s high time that prostituted women and children are seen as victims of violence. At Apne Aap we work closely with vulnerable communities to provide them with better opportunities and help them improve their livelihood.”

The Apne Aap cause and initiatives has received international support by activists and dignitaries like Gloria Steinem, Hillary Clinton, Ashley Judd, Ashton Kutcher, Ricky Martin, Justin Hilton among others.

 

french minister2

 

Press Release

Juvenile Justice, Rape and Death Penalty: Apne Aap Organizes a Talk in the Wake of the Recent Judgment on Dec 16 Rape Case

New Delhi, 24th September, 2013: Apne Aap Women Worldwide committed to work towards the empowerment of girls and women today organized its third session of ‘Terrace Talks’ at their head-office at India International Centre, New Delhi. The talk was chaired by Advocate Anant Kumar Asthana, child rights lawyer, in Delhi High Court. The discussion revolved around ‘Juvenile Justice, Rape and Death Penalty’.

The interactive session was organized to reach out to law students, academicians and activists to discuss the relevance of existing Juvenile Justice System and Law in the background of 16 Dec Gang Rape Incident and involvement of a juvenile in it. According to the latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, crimes committed by juveniles constitute only 1.1% of total crimes reported in the year 2012 while for the same period, the juvenile delinquency in England and Wales was 15% of total crime. Total offences reported in Crime in India in 2012 were 23,87,188. Out of these, a miniscule 27,936 offences were committed by children. Total 35,123 out of 44,83,36,000 children in India were arrested (not convicted) for these offences. Out of the total 2,75165 violent offences, children below the age of 18 committed 8779 violent offences. Of these 2856 were relating to Murder and Rape. The total number reduces to 1698 offences which were committed by children within the age range of 16-18 years in the whole of India.

The session further delved around the context of the current debate to ensure severe punishment is meted out when it is a case of serious offence. But the question that needs to be answered is should we actually change the juvenile justice laws even though the Indian figures of juvenile crime are miniscule.

The trial of the juvenile who has been booked for the gang rape and murder of the 23-year-old woman in the high profile December 16, 2012 rape incident has brought the juvenile justice system in India under the scanner again. The teenager was 17 at the time of incident.

The  National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data figures reveal the rise in the number of juvenile criminals across the country, but another alarming fact that has come out is that the age of offenders has also plummeting. The point to be highlighted is that these are nominal figures in the context of the total population and the need to change the law is not justified. This view has been upheld by Indian Supreme Court in August 2013 in Salil Bali Case. This raises concerns as to if youngsters are not afraid of committing crimes due to a rather lenient juvenile justice system? Or is it so because the juvenile justice administration system and correctional facilities are not fully equipped to ‘reform’ the convicted teens?

Participating in the discussion, Dr. Abhilasha Kumari, Director Apne Aap Women Worldwide said, “We feel society has to take responsibility. There should be a space where people are allowed a chance to reconnect with society. What is `that age’ when a person can take responsibility of his/her actions? Yes, people should be held responsible for the crimes they commit but isn’t society equally responsible for creating context which turns them into juveniles. This is often overlooked.”

Juvenile convicts are handled by Juvenile Justice Boards, which are supposed to provide care and create an environment that enables young people to reclaim an active and meaningful social life. But no such system is currently visible, however well articulated it may be in the law.

Elucidating on the juvenile justice laws, Anant Kumar Asthana highlighted despite the juvenile justice law prohibiting adult treatment of children, the practice of police showing children as adults and causing arrest and incarceration in adult jails continues unabated across the country. Speaking at the session, he said “Before we blame children, we need to retrospect as to what we do to our children. We can’t be an active doer of wrongs against our children and then ask for punishing children for their deviancy. First you give what children are entitled to and only then you get a right to question them. As of now we all have no moral right to be arrogant. We are all collectively guilty of betraying our children.”

He further added, “Where is the question of holding them accountable? Society and adults have to share responsibility.”   He said that the understanding that by incarcerating children in jails and by subjecting them to severe adult like punishments, offences by children will reduce is misplaced and in fact this will be counterproductive as  more and more children will be then loosing opportunities to reform.

The session concluded with the audience discussing various measures to implement the much needed juvenile justice reforms.

About Anant Kumar Asthana –

Anant Kumar Asthana, as a lawyer has earned the reputation of being one of the country’s most trusted authorities on a number of causes he has championed, particularly in the area of child rights protection. Asthana’s recent case resulted in a landmark Judgment in 2012 from the Delhi High Court directing Police to stop treating juveniles as adults. Due to this judgment, Jails of Delhi are searched every month by a team of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and those who appear to be juveniles, are referred for age inquiry. The Delhi High Court’s recent direction to the Delhi Government to frame guidelines for the prevention of sexual abuse of children was prompted by Asthana’s petition. Having graduated with a law degree from Aligarh Muslim University in 2007, Asthana got his training in activism from Tibetan poet and freedom fighter Tenzin Tsundue and learnt the nuances of public interest litigation from senior advocate Colin Gonsalves.

 

Press Release

‘An expression of freedom from exploitation through art’

tent

‘Community life of young girls from a de-notified tribe depicted through illustrations’

New Delhi, 16 September 2013: An art installation offering glimpses of the imagery of young girls from a de-notified tribe that practices intergenerational prostitution, using traditional motifs as well as contemporary visuals to capture the narrative journey of the community particularly of women is on display at the United Art Fair, Pragati Maidan, Delhi. Facilitated by Apne Aap Women Worldwide, the art piece exhibits ‘Folklore through the representations of Private and Public’ showcasing the social journey of the girls and women of the community towards empowerment. The art work will be on display from September 14-September 17, 2013 at Hall number 10, Pragati Maidan.

The multi-faceted art installation tries to capture their reality through visuals of community life and acts as a kaleidoscope that shares tales of their everyday lives and their constant struggles. With hopes and dreams to lead a life of dignity this group of six young girls created this multi-hued art piece in the form of a tent.

Speaking on the occasion, Ruchira Gupta, founder President, Apne Aap Women Worldwide (AAWW) said, “The tent depicts the safe space, whereas the highway and the trucks embroidered outside are the truckers who prey on the girls. The girls have used traditional Bihar appliqué embroidery method to tell the story of their lives”.

The participating artists are members of Apne Aap’s Self Empowerment Groups Kishori Mandal at Dharampura, Najafgarh. They were guided by Seema Kumari who teaches them appliqué work. These girls are in the process of empowering themselves through education, awareness of their legal rights and social entitlements and development of livelihood skills.

Ram Rahman, renowned photographer and part of United Art Fair’s curatorial team expressed his joy on Apne Aap Women Worldwide’s displaying their artwork in the United Art Fair, “I have seen Apne Aap Women Worldwide working dedicatedly towards the cause of women, both at their centres in Najafgarh and Dharampura wherein they just don’t empower women but also teach them vocational skills, like sewing and this applique work that is on display here. That is how I got this idea of combining their art work and develop it in the form of a tent which is unique, creative and doesn’t come across as regular applique work to the viewers”. He further added, “It is also a way of including these girls into a fair like this which acts as a way of breaking into different sections of society and also shows their creative streak”.

To the viewers this artwork presents cut-outs of trucks, cars or buses but for these girls these images are part of those nights where girls and women of their community went through cycle of exploitation. This art installation reflects the pain and trauma and the continuous abuse and injustice those women go through every day. It is heartening to see the depiction of Apne Aap as the tree which has given them shade under which they see themselves being set free and the rising sun as the prospect of a better future. The art-piece clearly represents their journey to break free from this cycle of exploitation and build a new life.

The intricate appliqué needlework not only strung together fabric, embroidery or motifs but also gives a deeper insight to the viewers as to how these young girls are under constant pressure and at risk of being pushed into prostitution and the consequences they face when they refuse to comply.

Dr. Abhilasha Kumari, Director Apne Aap Women Worldwide said, “Studies have shown how marginalized women experience some of the highest levels of violence in the world and how community-led responses to violence against women act as a bridge to reduce this violence from occurring. Our artwork today is one such statement that turns their story of life into a creative work of art that can be shared with all that view it, giving visibility to a world most of us hardly ever get a chance to see or experience. We should not only appreciate these young girls for their ability to visually articulate this reality but also enable others to engage with it and perhaps feel the need to do something to change it”.

The theme of the exhibit representing ‘Folklore: Private and Public’ reflects the different stages of the girls’ life and their journey in the form of a narrative tale. Using diverse and captivating symbolism where birds and flowers represent the girls, Apne Aap Women Worldwide as their shelter, highway and trucks as snakes and skeletons as the constant threat, this candid art display is a fresh and honest endeavor by these young girls to reach out to the society and tell their story.