As if Women Matter: The Essential Gloria Steinem Reader

Edited by Ruchira Gupta

Published by Roopa ( English)

Rajkamal ( Hindi)

Her early years in India taught her the Gandhian lesson that change, like a tree, must grow from the bottom up. Her decades of work with the feminist movement in her own and other countries taught her that violence and domination are normalized by the false division of human beings into subject and object, dominator and dominated, “masculine” and “feminine.”

Now, Gloria Steinem and activist Ruchira Gupta in India have chosen from her lifetime of writing those essays that reach across borders. She shares the feminist revelation that racism, caste and class cannot survive without controlling women’s bodies, and also many of the ways that feminist women and men are fighting that control. Due to female infanticide, child marriage, forced childbirth, domestic violence, sex trafficking, sexual assault in our streets, sexual assault in war zones, femicide and global pornography, this Space Ship Earth no longer has an equal number of female passengers. Consciousness has never been higher, or rebellion more widespread. This book is part of a much larger global rebellion. It includes a brand new essay by Steinem on sex trafficking: The Third Way-An End of Trafficking and Prostitution: A Beginning of Mutual Sexuality.

In its pages, you will find ideas, outrage, seriousness and laughter — and a friend

If you are in the area, consider attending the following events:

Monday, January 13, 2014: As if Women Matter: Hopes and Challenges in the Years Ahead: A Conversation between Gloria Steinem and Activists Teesta Setalvad, Vimal Thorat, Ayesha Kidwai and Jayati Ghosh, and Ruchira Gupta, followed by Q&A with students. Hosted by School of Social Sciences (SSS), Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi at SSS Auditorium, 3:00- 6:30pm

Tuesday, January 14, 2014: As if Women Matter: The Essential Gloria Steinem Reader, Book Reading by Author. Hosted by Oxford Book Store at N – 81 Connaught Place, New Delhi, 6:00-8:00 pm

Wednesday, January 15, 2014: As if Women Matter – The Essential Gloria Steinem Reader, Book Release, followed by a talk with Ela Bhatt. Hosted by India International Centre, New Delhi at the Auditorium, India International Centre, 6:30-8:00 pm

Friday, January 17, 2014: The Essential Gloria Steinem: A Conversation Between Gloria Steinem and Ruchira Gupta. Hosted by Jaipur Literary Festival, Jaipur at the Diggi House, Jaipur, 12:30-2:00 pm

Thursday, January 23, 2014: Talk: As if Women Matter: New Challenges in the New World Order, moderated by Ruchira Gupta. Hosted by Patna Women’s College, Patna University,  Patna, 3:00 pm

Saturday, January 25, 2014: Inauguration of Kolkata Literary Meet by Gloria Steinem, followed by a conversation between Ruchira Gupta and Gloria Steinem at Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata. Hosted by Kolkata Literary Meet, 1:45-3:15 pm

Monday, January 27, 2014: Talk: New Freedom Struggle: Women’s Rights in India, A Conversation between Gloria Steinem, Ruchira Gupta, with the students of Presidency College and Jadavpur University, moderated by Nilanjana S. Roy. Hosted by Kolkata Literary Meet at Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata, 1:45-3:00 pm 

Thursday, January 30, 2014: Women’s Rally at Araria Mahila College Ground, Bihar, 12:00-3:00 pm

Superintendent of Police, Araria, Bihar (India): Drop all False Charges against Anti-Trafficking Activist Mhd Kalam

I Mohammad Kalam from the Nat Community, working with Apne Aap Women Worldwide for the past ten years to end sex-trafficking and prostitution and have been facing false trafficking charges since June 2012.

I come from the Nat community, a De-Notified Tribe in India where women and girls are forced into inter-generational prostitution in their home-based brothels. They are stigmatized by mainstream society for which girls from the community are deprived of their basic rights to education, to livelihood, to a safe space, to legal protection and to a life of dignity. They are forced to remain in prostitution by their families and mainstream society.

I have always wanted to fight for the rights of the girls and women of our community, so that they can access opportunities of education, livelihood and come out of this situation of modern day slavery. I have even tried to get traffickers arrested on various occasions.

Unfortunately, some members of the community along with the traffickers and Johns, brought false allegations against me for trafficking girls. The police, without any proper investigation framed charges against me and I was wrongly detained in prison for 5 days, after which I was released on bail.

Till now, the charge-sheet of the case has not been submitted by the police, as they know that the case is false. Yet this sword of being wrongly prosecuted still dangles over my head.

Therefore, I want the Superintendent of Police, Araria District, Bihar to immediately withdraw all charges against me .

I appeal to you all to join me in my campaign to free myself from all false allegations in order to enable me to continue my work and motivate and free many others, like me, from fear of actively joining the struggle.

Sign the Petition Today

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.


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.


Girls from Nat Community Pass Class 10

felicitation pic
Apne Aap had much to celebrate in June as six girls from red light areas in Bihar, India, passed their 10th grade national secondary school exams with flying colors! These girls come from the Nat Community, which has practiced inter-generational prostitution for generations.
Each girl was the first in her family to receive an education. Two of them even ranked in the first division of test scores. Apne Aap founder, Ruchira Gupta, described it as “a huge victory for Apne Aap and the mothers of these girls who faced off traffickers against all odds” to get their daughters into school.

“They have fulfilled their mothers’ dreams that their daughters have a different destiny. They are role models for other girls, and will lead the way in transforming the community and dismantling the system of prostitution,” said Ruchira.

Their achievement is significant because it shows that there can be other options for women in the Nat community besides prostitution, if they are supported, and connected with the right assets.

Apne Aap community mobilizer, Mohammad Kalam said, “The success of these girls has sent out a message that while place and circumstances of birth are a matter of fate, it is certainly possible for the society and the state to provide the necessary means and opportunities for educating children born in red light areas so that they are not condemned to a fate their predecessors suffered.”

Many girls in this position never have an opportunity to realize their potential, as cycles of exploitation of the Nat Community are difficult to break.

The girls’ education was possible because of Apne Aap’s efforts to get a special, fifty-percent quota in KGBV, a hostel for children living in red light areas, run by Apne Aap and the government. This happened because the women of the community asked for assistance getting their girls into a safe space where they could access their basic rights to education, and have the chance to lead normal lives, safe from the potential of being sold for sex.

This comes after a long, sustained struggle Apne Aap has faced in challenging the tradition and custom of inter-generational prostitution in this community. Girls raised in the Nat Community are prostituted, and boys are taught to become pimps. Pulling girls away from prostitution means closing down the only livelihood many of these families know. As a result, families resisted sending the girls to the hostel, and sadly, some of them were removed before they could complete their education.

In the face of such odds, these young women’s commitment to their education and success in these difficult national exams is a tremendous achievement. We are so proud of them, and excited for all they will accomplish in the future.