Supply and Demand Fuels Human Trafficking

Ruchira Gupta, founder of Apne Aap, explains how human trafficking and prostitution are a supply and demand driven business in a recent article on The Guardian. Hear more from Ruchira in the videos above.

“It’s a system based on supply and demand. The supply is formed by marginalised women and girls, who have very little choice, so traffickers take advantage of their vulnerabilities. Demand is based on pimps and johns, those who take advantage of the lack of choice these girls have,” she says. “On the demand side my organisation tries to get pimps into jail and tries to get people who buy sex to think differently, and about the consequences to the women and girls when they buy sex.”

Gupta’s view that women become sex workers because they have no other choice is controversial among some women’s groups. Organisations like Vamp see sex workers not as victims who need saving, but as members of a profession offering greater freedoms than they previously experienced. In July, hundreds of sex workers met in Kolkata for the sex workers freedom festival to lobby for the decriminalisation of their profession.

“What happens to prostituted women and girls is that as they grow older … the brothel system does not require them any more and throws them out, or forces them to replace themselves with their daughters. These women are only in their 20s or early 30s. They’re disease-ridden, [have] had many abortions and they have dependency on drugs and alcohol.”

Very few sex workers become brothel managers, she says, and the few who do are “brutalised to such an extreme that they become desensitised and they think, well we have survived so we’ll do what we can, never mind what happens to the other girls and women”.

She adds: “I think women have a right to choose a lot of things, but sometimes they choose to be exploited because they have very few choices. No one chooses to be born poor, nobody chooses to be born low caste, and in India very often nobody chooses to be born a girl.”

“A combination of these three things takes away many of our choices. So, therefore, women who say they choose to be sex workers, it’s because they don’t have any other choices, it’s a survival strategy. And what Apne Aap and I are advocating for is that women are entitled to have many more choices, just like their brothers or their husbands or their fathers. So they have to have access to jobs, access to livelihoods and savings and education that men in their society do so that they can exercise equal choice.”


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Emily founded Stop Traffick Fashion in 2009. She’d been becoming more and more involved in the abolitionist movement, and she decided to start STF as an opportunity to bring together the best of all products made by survivors of trafficking. She hopes her response to trafficking will inspire others to take action, even in a small way. Emily lives in Bend, Oregon, enjoys traveling, and has visited Hagar International and StopStart in Cambodia.

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