In a video shot secretly by human-rights activists and obtained by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Uzek service, young children are seen toiling in Uzbekistan’s cotton fields. The Uzbek government forcibly sends upwards of 2 million children—some as young as 7—to work in the fields for 10 hours a day, for two to three months each year, according to the Responsible Sourcing Network, which rallied more than 60 of the world’s leading apparel brands and retailers in October to boycott cotton knowingly harvested using child laborers in the Central Asian nation.
Not that the state-sanctioned practice appears to be on the wane. The Uzbek government has taken no meaningful steps to implement the two International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions on child labor, which it ratified in March 2008, states Human Rights Watch in its 2012 World Report.
The Uzbek government has taken no meaningful steps to implement the two International Labour Organization conventions on child labor.
“Despite repeated requests, it continued to refuse ILO access to monitor the harvest,” the advocacy group adds. “[The children] live in filthy conditions, contract illnesses, miss school, and work daily from early morning until evening for little to no pay. Hunger, exhaustion, and heat stroke are common.”
But industry players admit that a boycott, though sound in theory, is difficult to put into practice because of the multiple links in a global supply chain. “There really is no current way to trace and certify—once the textiles are in a state where we get engaged—that no cotton fibers in those textiles originally came from the cotton fields of Uzbekistan or anywhere else for that matter,” Ron Parham, a spokesman for Colombia Sportswear told BBC News in September. One way forward, he says, is to use the model for organic cotton, where the fiber’s source can be traced from the final product to the grower.
With thanks to QuitAndMove.