Contemporary Slavery, Justice, and the Last Girl Featuring Ruchira Gupta, Founder of Apne Aap Women Worldwide
The Last Girl is the most vulnerable because she is not only poor and female, but also a teenager. In India, she is low-caste, in US she is Black/African American or Native American, in Europe she could be a refugee, in Africa she may be an ethnic minority…she exists everywhere. She has little control over her life, decision making and her body. She lives in conditions that are akin to slavery. She is the 19-year-old woman in the brothel who “chooses” to stay in the prostitution system. There is no effective or comprehensive justice system to prevent her exploitation or help her exit this system, to watch out for her when she is pulled out of school, runs away from the brothel or tries to leave the brothel to go back home. Her “agency” in her own enslavement is routinely accepted at face value by the State and singularly construed as “choice,” as it fails to help her attain her basic needs or increase her choices. The talk contends that the basic needs of the Last Girl are her human rights, and raises issues and questions regarding the structures of exploitation and the normalization of exploitation as livelihood.
Ruchira Gupta is the Founder and President of Apne Aap Women Worldwide – a grassroots organization in India working to end sex trafficking by increasing choices for at-risk girls and women. Gupta is also Adjunct Associate Professor, MSC for Global Affairs, School for Continuing Professional Studies, New York University. She has striven over her 25-year career to highlight the link between trafficking and prostitution laws, and to lobby policy makers to shift blame from victims to perpetrators. Prior to founding Apne Aap, Gupta worked in the United Nations in various capacities in 12 countries for over ten years. She has won numerous awards, including the Clinton Global Citizen Award, Abolitionist Award at the UK House of Lords, l’Ordre national du Mérite, and CSW Woman of the Year. She won an Emmy in 1997 for her work on the documentary “The Selling of Innocents,” which inspired the creation of Apne Aap. In 2016, Gupta was appointed a Distinguished Scholar with the Political Conflict, Gender and People’s Rights Project at Center for Race and Gender, UC Berkeley.