It’s time to rethink your wardrobe, and not just because the season’s changing.
A new report has linked some of the world’s largest fast fashion retailers to sickening forced labor of women and young girls at multiple South Indian textile mills. Flawed Fabrics, an investigation carried out by human rights organizations The Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) and the India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN,) has linked multiple western retail giants including H&M, Primark, and HanesBrands to the horrifying conditions in mills, reports WWD.
Investigators carried out 150 in-depth interviews with workers in five mills in the Southern India region of Tamil Nadu: Best Cotton Mills, Jeyavishnu Spintex, Premier Mills, Sulochana Cotton Spinning Mills, and Super Spinning Mills. These mills have Western companies and Bangladesh garment factories among their customers, including C&A, Mothercare, HanesBrands, Sainsbury’s, and Primark.
The findings included “prison-like conditions” in which the women are literally bonded, and girls as young as 15 recruited from marginalized Dalit communities in impoverished rural areas. The workers were lured away with the promise of good wages and working conditions, only to experience “appalling conditions that amount to modern day slavery and the worst forms of child labour.” Though because there are no pay slips, contracts, or places to express their grievances, they can’t exactly drag their employers off to court. One woman told investigators, “I do not like the hostel; there is no entertainment and no outside contact and is very far from the town. It is like a semi-prison.”
Sixty percent of the labor force in the region — home to around 1,600 mills — consists of girls and young women. Things are apparently so bad that one 14-year-old girl recently committed suicide.
H&M, Primark and C&A have now pledged to take action. H&M claims not to have a direct relationship with the mills, but that the connection is through one of their suppliers in Bangladesh that has ordered yarns from Super Spinning.
You can read the full report on SOMO’s website. And perhaps be careful about which fast fashion chains you turn to when throwing together a last-minute Halloween costume.