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Ruchira Gupta Speaks at Lady Shri Ram College for Women, by Arpita Mitra, Coordinator, Women’s Development Cell, Lady Shri Ram College for Women

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On 29th October’ 13, The Women’s Development Cell of Lady Shri Ram College for Women organized a Guest Lecture by Prof. Ruchira Gupta, Founder/ President – Apne Aap Women Worldwide. The crucial theme that was chosen for the interactive session was ‘Sex Trafficking in India and Beyond’. Most significantly, the session also gave emphasis to the recently launched Cool Men Don’t Buy Sex Campaign – a prerogative of Apne Aap Women as a call to end every form of sex trafficking.

The session began with a short presentation exhibiting Prof Ruchira Gupta’s involvement in the issue of advocacy against sex trafficking that has presently contributed in making her a true leader, at both the national and international platform. Thereafter Prof Gupta dealt with the session in an intense yet sensitive manner. She connected profoundly with the audience, by sharing her personal journey from being a passionate journalist to someone who gradually realized the ignorance attributed to women’s voices and experiences. She beautifully retold interesting observations that she made in the initial years of being in the field of journalism: how issues involving men were termed ‘political’, while those of women as ‘cultural’ with disproportionate importance of the latter. As part of investigative journalism, even in issues ranging from ethnic conflict to armed struggles, there scarcely remained a quote from a woman.  It was post her involvement in covering the issue of Babri Masjid demolition and the attached personal account of sexual abuse; that she could realize how difficult it was for a woman to exercise her right to be heard.

Offering a linkage with her career in journalism, consequently she was horrified to learn about the staggering proportion of young girls missing from the streets of Nepal, who were found to be secretly bought and traded to the brothels of Mumbai. From there, the discussion took an interesting turn, as Prof Gupta engaged the audience in a discussion reflecting horror, pain, anger, helplessness, and a scope for improvement and change; all at the same time. She threw light on the process by which a young girl is made to internalize the hardship of being forcefully held in the business of prostitution. Most significantly, she pointed out the attitude of the pimps and customers who believe in buying domination through prostitution, much more than buying sex. By acknowledging prostitution as a system and a complex web of buyers, brothels, business and the bought, Prof Gupta reflected on the sharp distinction between sexual exploitation and sex, coupled with the idea of lack of choice for the woman who persistently gets entrapped in this business. She uncovered layers of our understanding pertaining to masculinity and the prominent version of aggressive masculinity which conveniently views prostitution as a means of supporting an economically deprived and vulnerable woman receive adequate livelihood, thereby getting away from the aspect of criminality. Through the campaign, therefore, she explains the need to acquire a societal shift, believing that it is the male demand for prostitution that continues, furthers and perpetuates trafficking.

Students who attended the session were partly stoned by the experiences narrated by Prof. Gupta. The Women’s Development Cell of the college received tremendous appreciation from the student audience for organizing an intriguing session with Prof Gupta that left a tremendous impact of all of them. The enthusiasm and interest to know more about sex trafficking got clearly reflected from the Question and Answer that lasted for nearly an hour more than what the organizers could have anticipated. Students are even curious to learn about the Campaign and further initiatives of Apne Aap Women Worldwide, that exemplifies the appreciation they have expressed for the session concerned. To put it in a nutshell, we were really honored to have Prof Gupta amidst us, for taking out time and creating this powerful space in deciphering the voice of women who become victims of sex trafficking, even in the present 21st century. We salute and gain inspiration from a leader and a remarkable achiever like her.

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