Apne Aap Women Worldwide is a grassroots Indian organization that empowers marginalized girls and women to resist and end sex trafficking. We organize vulnerable girls and women into small self-empowerment groups, where they work collectively to access legal, social, economic and political rights.
Our organization was founded in 2002 by Ruchira Gupta along with 22 courageous women in prostitution who shared her vision of a world where no woman would be bought or sold. A charitable trust registered in India, Apne Aap Women Worldwide continues to strive to turn this vision into reality.
Based in New York, Apne Aap’s international office in New York raises funds to support the organization’s grassroots work in India. Apne Aap International, which is registered as a 501(c)(3) charity in the United States, partners with organizations such as NoVo Foundation, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women and Equality Now to push for an end to sex trafficking.
For most women, prostitution is a survival strategy at best, and bonded labor and slavery at worst. Most women and girls are forced into prostitution physically or by their circumstances. Prostitution is not a choice but an absence of choice based on gender, class, caste, ethnic and racial inequalities that the sex industry exploits.
Apne Aap stands for a “Third Way” of dealing with sex trafficking and prostitution. We believe women should not be punished by the law for being in prostitution or having to conduct associated ancillary activities like soliciting. So we work to decriminalize girls and women trapped in prostitution.
We want those who abuse a woman for profit or take advantage of her vulnerabilities — a consequence of factors ranging from poverty to gender — to be held accountable and punished severely. Such people include recruiters, transporters, agents, middlemen, pimps, brothel owners, brothel managers, financiers, moneylenders and landlords. Apne Aap also advocates punishment for those who buy sex.
We want governments and companies to spend on the education, accommodation and the livelihood of marginalized girls and women, and ensure that they have access to justice. This will not only increase their choices but also make them less vulnerable to pressure from traffickers.
Apne Aap helps marginalized girls and women work collectively to break away from the sex industry. We also fight for policy change to curb the demand for purchased sex.
Since 2002, we have set up 150 self-empowerment groups (SEGs) in brothels, red-light districts, slums and villages. These groups are at the core of our community-centered solution to end sex trafficking. In the process, we have transformed the most marginalized women into leaders who can change their own fate and those of their peers.
On the policy side, we successfully lobbied for the United Nations anti-trafficking fund for survivors. Established in 2010, the fund disburses grants to organizations providing services to victims of trafficking. Apne Aap representatives have delivered speeches at the South African and Icelandic Parliaments, urging members to change laws to put an end to trafficking. Both countries now have policies to punish buyers of sex rather than trafficked women.