Human Trafficking in our Fabrics
We’ve been asked on multiple occasions how human trafficking works in the fashion industry. Is it really as bad as some of those documentaries make it out to be?
The answer short answer, yes.
Fashion has many stages before it winds up on the shelves and hangers of our favorite shops displayed so prettily for us to peruse at our leisure.
We are taking a step by step approach to human trafficking in the fashion industry.
Today we are on step 2. Read here to catch up on step 1.
Yarn and eventually cloth.
The primary places that I want to focus on today are Pakistan and India. Last blog we spoke about the cotton picking conditions of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Often the raw cotton will then be shipped over to today’s focus of Pakistan and India to be turned into yarn that will then eventually be turned into cloth.
Most often the communities that supply the workers for the factories, (that take the raw cotton and turn it into something usable) are marked by extreme poverty and therefore incredibly vulnerable. While that doesn’t guarantee they are all being exploited, it means it is VERY easy to do so.
The India garment sector employees around 40 million workers directly and about 60 million workers indirectly (IBEF.org). With that many people who are vulnerable vying for that many jobs, is it any surprise that India’s census reported that there are 8.2 million child laborers in the 5-14 year old age group?
It is clear that exploitation at the yarn and cloth stage of producing clothes is infested with human trafficking. We must ask ourselves why is it so difficult to root out?
One of the answers is that between India and Pakistan there are tens of thousands of small, medium, and large cotton mills. To provide oversight to all of them is nearly impossible. Most of these are in rural areas where oversight of any kind is limited. There have been found many cases of families being offered “lump sums” for their daughters in exchange for 2-3 year “contracts” for around $500-$1,000. This means it’s a the perfect conditions to buy and sell humans and use them as tools to be owned and discarded when broken.
A few years ago there was a tragic manufacturing incident that left 1,129 humans dead. This incident was totally avoidable if the space they were working in wasn’t such a death trap. A small fire turned into these people’s worst nightmare. However, if human life wasn’t valued, of course the space in which you put them to work didn’t really matter.
These facts and figures are devastating and incredibly painful to read, and this is just a brief overview so we can grasp the larger picture!
Do not let the pain of these faceless millions cause you to hide away in shame for your potential participation through your shopping habits. Instead, let this ignite in you something fierce! An unstoppable demand for the value of human life!
Shame will fade, but imbedding the truth of the value of human life will not! Let that truth guide your shopping habits. Let it be the truth that makes you demand information on the items you are buying and let it be the truth you proudly wear each day because your consumer power has helped build a better world!