Their keynote conversation Thursday, April 18, kicks off a two-day symposium on the human rights issue.

gloria_ruchiraNORTHAMPTON, Mass.–Between 600,000 and 800,000 people, mostly women, are transported among international borders every year as often-unwilling or unaware participants in the worldwide illegal sex trade, according to U.S. Department of State estimates.

Human trafficking has grown into the second-most lucrative illegal industry globally, surpassed only by drug trafficking.

On Thursday, April 18, human rights activists Gloria Steinem and Ruchira Gupta will kick off a two-day symposium at Smith College, “Trafficking Sex: Politics, Policy, Personhood,” with a keynote conversation beginning at 7 p.m. in John M. Greene Hall. The keynote event is free and the public is welcome to attend.

The “Trafficking Sex” symposium will continue on Friday, April 19, with a daylong series of panel discussions, in which experts will discuss the interplay among public policy, advocacy, human rights, and technology, in the United States and around the world.

Steinem, a graduate of Smith College, in 1956, is a renowned feminist leader, journalist, editor and founder of Ms. Magazine. She is active in the National Women’s Political Caucus, the Women’s Action Alliance, and Voters for Choice, travels widely as a lecturer and frequent media spokesperson on issues of equality.

Gupta has worked for 25 years for women’s and girls’ rights, particularly around ending sex trafficking. In 2002, Gupta founded Apne Aap Women Worldwide, a grassroots nongovernmental organization that works for women’s rights and the eradication of sex trafficking.

In 2000, Gupta testified in the U.S. Senate in support of ratifying the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which combats the growth of the illicit trade and monitors activity.

Gupta, along with other activists, lobbied the United Nations during the formulation of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, efforts that contributed to adoption of the first UN policy instrument to address demand in the context of trafficking.

The symposium is presented by the Global Studies Center in conjunction with Meridians; The Program for the Study of Woman and Gender; The Project for Women and Social Change; Afro-American Studies Department; and the Office of the Provost.

Smith College educates women of promise for lives of distinction. One of the largest women’s colleges in the United States, Smith enrolls 2,600 students from nearly every state and 62 other countries.

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