Monday, May 23, 2011

[ZESTCaste] Exploited Dalit Girls Produce Garments in India for European and US Markets

Exploited Dalit Girls Produce Garments in India for European and US Markets

AMSTERDAM, May 20, 2011 /PRNewswire/ --

- Companies Have Taken Steps, But Exploitation Remains Widespread

Big garment brands and retailers have their products made under
exploitative and unhealthy conditions by girls in Tamil Nadu, South
India. The girls, mostly younger than 18 and from a Dalit ('outcaste')
background are employed under the Sumangali Scheme. In its worst form,
this employment scheme stands for bonded labour, as described in
'Captured by Cotton', a report published today by the Centre for
Research on Multinational Corporation (SOMO) and the India Committee
of the Netherlands (ICN). The report features case studies of four
large manufacturers. These enterprises produce for Bestseller (e.g.
Only, Jack & Jones), C&A, GAP, Diesel, Inditex (e.g. Zara), Marks &
Spencer, Primark, Tommy Hilfiger, and many other European and US
garment companies. A number of companies have undertaken steps towards
the elimination of the Sumangali Scheme, but abusive labour practices
remain widespread.

Sumangali girls

The Sumangali girls are recruited with the promise of a decent wage,
comfortable accommodation, and, the biggest attraction, a considerable
sum of money upon completion of their three-year contract. This lump
sum, varying between 400 and 800 euros, may be used to pay for a
dowry. The reality stands in sharp contrast to the alluring promises:
wages below the legally set minimum, excessive overwork , non-payment
of overtime work, restricted freedom of movement, lack of privacy, no
possibility to lodge complaints or get redress, unhealthy and unsafe
working conditions, etc. This situation fits the definition of 'worst
forms of child labour' as laid down by the International Labour
Organisation (ILO) for children up to 18 years old. This is a clear
breach of international labour standards and Indian labour law.

The promised sum is not a bonus, but is made up of withheld wages. In
a number of documented cases girls have not received the lump sum they
were entitled to, despite having completed the contractual three year

The girls' freedom of action is severely restricted with guards
keeping a constant eye on them. They are compulsory accommodated in
basic dormitories, often within the compound of the factory. This also
means workers hardly have a chance to get in touch with trade unions
or advocacy groups.

SOMO and ICN have shared drafts of the report with the companies that
are named in the report. Several companies have responded with
detailed feedback that has been processed in the final version of the

Note for the press

More information about the research can be found at the SOMO website:

(Due to the length of this URL, it may be necessary to copy and paste
this hyperlink into your Internet browser's URL address field. Remove
the space if one exists.)

Download: Captured by Cotton:

Click here for the video interview with Martje Theuws (SOMO).


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