Trafficking Sex: Politics, Policy, Personhood – A Conversation with Gloria Steinem and Ruchira Gupta,

Trafficking Sex: Politics, Policy, Personhood

April 18 2013, Smith College

Presented by:

Smith College Global Studies Center

Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism

The Program for the Study of Women and Gender


Welcome by President Carol Christ, Smith College

Paula Giddings, Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism; Afro-American Studies

Introduction of Ruchira Gupta by Mona Sinha ’88, Trustee Introduction, introduction of Gloria Steinem by Bethy Williams ‘13

A Conversation with
Gloria Steinem, writer, lecturer, editor, and feminist activist and Ruchira Gupta, sex trafficking abolitionist and filmmaker Moderators: Carrie Baker, Study of Women and Gender, and Erin Kelly ’13 

Keynote Speakers:

Gloria Steinem is a Smith alumna, writer, lecturer, editor, and feminist activist. She is particularly interested in the shared origins of sex and race caste systems, gender roles and child abuse as roots of violence, non-violent conflict resolution, and the cultures of indigenous peoples.

In 1972, she co-founded Ms. Magazine and was instrumental in the magazine’s move to be published by the Feminist Majority Foundation. In 1968, she helped to found New York magazine, where she was a political columnist and wrote feature articles. As a freelance writer, she was published in Esquire, New York Times Magazine, and Glamour, as well as publications in other countries.

Her books include the bestsellers Revolution from Within: A Book of Self- Esteem, Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions; Moving Beyond Words; and Marilyn: Norma Jean, on the life of Marilyn Monroe. Her writing also appears in many anthologies and textbooks, and she was an editor of The Reader’s Companion to U.S. Women’s History.


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. 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.

She testified in the United States Senate before the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act in 2000, and she lobbied with other activists at the United Nations during formulations for the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons—resulting in the first UN instrument to address demand for trafficking in Article 9.

In 2009 Gupta won the Clinton Global Citizen Award and in 2007, she won the Abolitionist Award at the UK House of Lords. In 2008 and 2009, Gupta addressed the UN General Assembly on human trafficking. She won a 1997 Emmy award for her work on the documentary The Selling of Innocents, which inspired the creation of Apne Aap. Her work has been featured in 11 books including Half the Sky by Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas Kristof.

She is on the board of Coalition against Trafficking in Women and the advisory councils of the Polaris Project, Vital Voices, Ricky Martin Foundation, Asia Society, Nomi Network, and Cents for Relief.


About the symposium:

Over the last year, the Global Studies Center, the journal Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism, and the Program for the Study of Women and Gender have presented multiple events relating to the issue of human trafficking. In May of 2012 at the Kahn Liberal Arts Institute, we held a faculty seminar and, in January of 2013, we hosted a multidisciplinary, one-day interterm workshop for students. At these events, we examined labor and sex trafficking, both in Massachusetts and around the world. Participants included scholars, activists, and law enforcement representatives. Panelists presented comparative perspectives and discussed local responses, including how students were or could be involved in anti-trafficking work.

Throughout February, March, and April of this year, we presented a four-film series featuring David Feingold’s Trading Women, Marco Kreutzpainter’s Trade, Mimi Chakarova’s Price and Sex, and David Schisgall and Nina Alverez’s Very Young Girls. Critical reflections on these films included discussions moderated by Smith College faculty members.

This symposium represents the culminating event in our year-long investigation into human trafficking. At this event, we are bringing together a wide range of activists and scholars to discuss and debate the complex and controversial issue of sex trafficking globally and in the United States. The conversation begins on Thursday evening with Smith alumna and longtime feminist Gloria Steinem and Ruchira Gupta, a leading anti-trafficking activist in India and globally. On Friday, there will be three panels on technology, trafficking, and the law; sex trafficking in the United States; and global trafficking and human rights. Proceedings from this symposium will appear in an upcoming issue of Meridians.

It is our hope that this symposium, in conjunction with our earlier events and the forthcoming issue of Meridians, will help to empower young women with the knowledge, strength and compassion that will allow them to take on the challenge of eradicating the trade in human beings—and succeed.

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