The largest garment export factory in Jordan that provides clothing for American retail markets including Wal-Mart, Hanes, Kohl's, Target and Macy's employs dozens of migrant workers from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, most of whom are virtually imprisoned in dilapidated surroundings. “We only went to Jordan to earn money to help our families,” says a young woman who goes by the name “Nazma” to protect her identity. “We had no idea that factory managers would rape so many of us young girls.” The garments enter the U.S. duty-free under the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement.
· In a report published by The Institute of Global Labor and Human Rights the alleged rapist Anil Santha who is the general manager sends a van on a weekly basis to bring four or five young women to his hotel, where he abuses them. The lives of the young Sri Lankan rape victims are completely humiliated, as in their culture, virginity is highly prized and critical for a good marriage.
Reports of Bondage
Eccuterre.com reports the institute’s findings are the result of six-month undercover effort, says Charles Kernaghan, its director and lead author of the study. “One young rape victim told us her assailant, a manager, bit her, leaving scars all over her body,” he says. “Women who become pregnant are forcibly deported and returned to Sri Lanka. Women who refuse the sexual advances of Classic‘s managers are also beaten and deported.”
Workers are required to work 13 hour shifts for 61 cents an hour and are physically hit and cursed at while working. Many times their wages are shorted because they don’t meet production goals reported by eyewitnesses.
· “To press the women to work faster, managers grope and fondle them,” Kernaghan adds. They’re also forced to live in bedbug-infested dormitories, without heat or hot water.
· Although Jordan’s Ministry of Labor has been made aware of the allegations as early as 2007, he says, it has done nothing. Neither have the American corporations that continue to buy Classic clothing and claim no evidence of wrongdoing. “The minimal efforts of Walmart, Hanes, and the other labels to monitor factory conditions at Classic,” says Kernaghan, who wants the companies to immediately remove the accused perpetrators, compensate the victims, and enforce the worker’s rights laws in the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement.
· “All we can do is cry,” Nazma says. “We ask the people who buy our garments, please end this abuse and torture we face. We should be able to work without fear of sexual assault.”
Institute for Global Human and Labor Rights
Petition at Change.org