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

By Somo, PRNE
Thursday, May 19, 2011

Companies Have Taken Steps, But Exploitation Remains Widespread

AMSTERDAM, May 20, 2011 - Big garment brands and retailers have their products made
under exploitative and unhealthy conditions by girls in Tamil Nadu, South
. 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

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 report.

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).

Spokespersons: SOMO - Martje Theuws: m.theuws at somo.nl, T: +31(0)20-6391291, M: +31(0)6-11316205; ICN - Gerard Oonk: g.oonk at indianet.nl, T: +31(0)30-2321340 M: +31-0(6)51015260

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