The plight of women workers suffering from sexual abuse and rape at Jordan’s largest garment factory, Classic Fashion Apparel, has been occurring for several years now. The Classic Fashion Apparel factory produces labels for Wal-Mart, Hanes, Kohl’s, Target, and Macy’s…with Wal-Mart being the largest producer at Classic. According to the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights (IGLHR) there are over 4,000 foreign guest workers from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Egypt sewing garments at Classic for duty-free export to the U.S. The story of these women guest workers being sexually abused and raped over the years by their male managers, as well as suffering from physical punishment and deportation for refusing sexual advances, was first broken by Charles Kernaghan, Director of IGLHR, on June 9, 2011 as an alert titled ‘Sexual predators and serial rapists run wild at Wal-Mart supplier in Jordan’. The alert can be found at the following link: http://www.globallabourrights.org/alerts?id=0339
According to Verité.org, over 85% of the workers in the global apparel and footwear sectors are women. In Mexico alone more than 4,500 foreign-owned assembly plants with low-tariff benefits employ some 1.3 million workers, 75 percent of them young women between the ages of 16 and 24. In some not-so-unique cases these women are treated very poorly in the workplace. One Mexican woman thought that being sexually harassed by both her supervisors and her peers was “just part of being a female working at the assembly plant.” The full Verité Works Report, Advancing Women’s Rights and Social Responsibility: Capacity Building in Mexico is available here.
Such behavior is unacceptable. Even more unacceptable is for the textile industry to continue ignoring such heinous acts against humanity. The situation in the textile industry comes even more into focus when we consider that women make up 70% of the world’s poor, as per the International Labour Organization. It is difficult for these women to climb out of poverty since they often earn less. For example, the United Nations reports women wage earners in Sri Lanka earn 20% less per day than their male counterparts.
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