Ruchira Gupta conferred "Knight of the National Order of Merit"
New Delhi, 31 January 2017
On behalf of the President of the French Republic, Mrs Claire Thuaudet, Chargée d’Affaires a.i., conferred the highest French civilian distinction, Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite (Knight of the National Order of Merit), on Mrs Ruchira Gupta, on Tuesday January 31th 2017.
The honour comes in recognition of her outstanding work to end sex trafficking in India, and so on to uphold the dignity of women and young girls.
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 the 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.
Dear Ruchira Gupta,
We have gathered here today with your near and dear ones and representatives of various NGOs and organisations that, like you, toil daily to uphold the dignity of women and young girls.
It is an honour for me to confer an award on you this evening – the National Order of Merit at that – because through your life and your action, you symbolise the fight that India undertakes to abolish prostitution and eliminate all forms of sex trafficking.
A journalist by education, you have been working for the past twenty-five years to end sex trafficking, which started not only when you used to cover this news beat as a journalist for Calcutta dailies, but also and above all from the time you founded Apne Aap Women Worldwide. Established in 2002, your NGO – more commonly known as Apne Aap – fights for women’s rights emphatically and vigorously and for the elimination of human trafficking. Thanks to your work, Apne Aap has helped more than 15,000 imprisoned and ill-treated women and young girls to exit from prostitution in India. It is also on their behalf that we are conferring this honour on you this evening.
Dear Ruchira Gupta, you have tirelessly worked, on the one hand, to link trafficking to prostitution, and on the other, demand the abolition of prostitution. Apne Aap pushes for these two major actions.
Since the very beginning, you decided that your NGO’s action would be oriented towards the red light districts of major Indian cities, including Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi. With a young and dynamic team, you work every day to uphold the rights of victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking in a region of India that is particularly affected by these criminal phenomena. Taking constant care to rehabilitate exploited and maltreated women and young girls, you based your NGO’s action on a threefold strategy aimed at making women autonomous through mutual support groups: 1. exchange of information on their rights; 2. lobbying with the government so that they may benefit from the services and schemes they are entitled to; and 3. imparting vocational training so that they could earn a decent living. You, thus, set up homes for housing and educating these women and girls. I recall that in 2013, the French Minister for Women’s Rights visited one of them. And I hope to visit the same Apne Aap centre in the near future.
In addition to your grassroots work and the ear you lend to these particularly distressed women, Apne Aap has been pushing for the review of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act so that more severe punishment is meted out to traffickers and users of prostitution, and victims of trafficking are provided due care and protection. Your unparalleled resolve impelled you to participate actively in several governmental bodies whose mission was to propose new social and penal measures to help such women and punish the criminals. Lastly, you are mindful of training a new generation that is actively mobilized against such trafficking. Thus, you teach several courses at New York University and Indira Gandhi National Open University in New Delhi to combat the organization of such trafficking and raise awareness on ways and means to rehabilitate sex workers. You have also worked for the United Nations in twelve countries and advised many governments.
Considering your involvement in an issue of great important in India and all over the world, considering your unflagging crusade to improve legislation, change society’s mind on the place of women worldwide, and considering your outstanding achievement of giving so many battered women the means to find a decent place in society, Ruchira Gupta, you deserve the recognition of the French Republic.
Dear Ruchira Gupta,
For all these achievements, the President of the French Republic has decided to appoint you Knight of the National Order of Merit. This prestigious honour was instituted in 1963 by General Charles de Gaulle to acknowledge the distinguished merit – whether in the civil or military field – of French as well as foreign nationals who, like you, contribute significantly to strengthening the friendship between France and other countries. I am delighted to bestow this honour on you this evening.
And now, in keeping with protocol, I will proceed in French.
Ruchira Gupta, au nom du Président de la République, nous vous faisons “Chevalier de l’ordre national du Mérite”.