The Guardian recently detailed two different reports that allege gruesome “gender-based violence” in Gap and H&M’s supply chains.
“Pressure to meet fast fashion deadlines is leading to women working in Asian factories supplying Gap and H&M being sexually and physically abused” the story says, noting that the reports found 540 factory workers who “described incidents of threats and abuse” between January and May of this year.
(That’s 3.6 incidents a day, for those into metrics.)
Recorded in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, “the reports claim that these allegations… are a direct result of pressure for quick turnarounds and low overheads.”
“We must understand gender-based violence as an outcome of the global supply chain structure,” says Jennifer Rosenbaum, US director of Global Labour Justice. “H&M and Gap’s… model creates unreasonable production targets and underbid contracts, resulting in women working unpaid overtime and working very fast under extreme pressure.”
As far as the incidents go, they’re awful. One tailor told “researchers that she was grabbed by the hair and punched,” another “told researchers she was beaten as punishment for not meeting production quotas” for H&M, and another described an insidious practice that leaves no bruises or other “evidence with the police.”
And those were just the women who were willing to talk. According to NGOs interviewed for the article, “most of these cases are not reported due to fear of retaliation in the workplace,” which means that actual the number of incidents is almost certainly higher.
For whatever it’s worth, Gap said it was “deeply concerned” by the allegations, H&M said it would “go through every section of the report and follow-up on factory level with [their] local teams,” and both said they “welcomed initiatives to tackle violence,” which is wonderfully noncommittal.
You can read more about it at The Guardian.