Fighting for people over profits
The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is the height of indulgence, featuring top-model “Angels”, lavish parties and a diamond-studded bra worth upwards of $12 million dollars.
It is a world away from the harsh, miserable reality where the garments Victoria’s Secret sells are stitched together — a world where girls as young as 14 are trapped in bonded labor, forced by their parents to work for years to pay off dowries. It’s known as the Sumangali Scheme and it’s common across Southern India’s textile sector.
Victoria’s Secret is one of many brands that contract with factories involved in this despicable child labor. Victoria’s Secret hopes its customers focus on its models and ignore the hundreds of thousands of children that risk life and limb working next to industrial machinery to make its products. Victoria’s Secret knows this is going on, but won’t listen unless it’s customers and potential customers use our voice to stand up for these girls.
Tell Victoria’s Secret to pressure its supply chain to end the terrible conditions in Sumangali Scheme factories.
There are between 100,000 and 300,000 women working without pay in Sumangali Schemes — many of whom are girls as young as 14. The girls are cheap because they are making a devil’s bargain, signing up for three years’ hard labor in exchange for one lump-sum payment to form enough dowry for marriage. The girls forgo education to slave in these factories, bearing heart-wrenching pain and sacrifice to churn out garments like Victoria’s Secret lingerie.
They are subjected to verbal and physical abuse, and put to work in excruciatingly hot factories with little ventilation. Often the machines are dangerous to operate, especially under stress, and little safety equipment or supervision is provided. Many workers suffer appallingly ill health, brought on by poor diet, unhygienic living conditions, and the prevalence of ingesting cotton into the lungs and stomach.
The girls are forced to live in hostels, with little to no interaction with the outside world. Often, they are not even allowed to make phone calls to their families, let alone have contact with trade unions or labor advocates.
The Indian Government’s enforcement of labor law continues to fall short of what’s needed, which is where public facing brands like Victoria’s Secret come in. If we can pressure the global garment industry to exercise power over its supply chain and act to ensure that human rights are respected, hundreds of thousands of women’s lives will be improved.
Tell Victoria’s Secret to commit to concrete and measurable steps to end bonded labor and Sumangali Scheme employment in its supply chain.