You might consider missing out on Missoni for Target a tragedy, but trust us, that’s just the hyperbole talking. For the female garment workers in Jordan, however, the nightmare of cranking out cut-price clothing to sate American appetites is very real. After the Institute of Global Labour and Human Rights reported allegations of serial rape, abuse, and torture at Classic Factory—which makes clothing for U.S. companies such as Target, Walmart, Hanes, Macy’s, and Sears, and Lands End—the fifth woman in two years has come forward to claim she was raped by a manager. “He said, if you try to do anything now, I’ll kill you right here,” the Bangladeshi national says in her testimony. “Then he put his hands on me…he violated me. I want his judgment and that he go to jail, with that I’d be happy. So he can’t do this to another woman again.”
Cheap but at what cost?
FASHION’S SEEDY UNDERBELLY
The American retailers have all refused to take action, according to the human-rights watchdog group, and the Jordanian government admits no wrongdoing. “The Jordanian government investigation of Classic has been severely flawed by incompetency, a lack of resources and trained investigators, and a deliberate campaign by Classic management to hold the foreign women guest workers in a state of terror and repression,” says Charles Kernaghan, director of the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, which has banded with Change.org to demand immediate suspension of the managers involved.
“This is not a serious investigation, but a whitewash,” says Charles Kernaghan of the Institute of Global Labour and Human Rights.
“Investigators have failed to secure basic documentation related to the rape accusations, have refused to allow victims to be interviewed in safe circumstances by women’s advocates, and have kept independent human rights groups out of the investigation,” he adds. “This is not a serious investigation, but a whitewash.”
Although global media coverage is only now gathering momentum, the government has known about the violations as early as 2007, says Kernaghan. In October, 2,400 Sri Lankan and Indian migrant workers went on strike to demand the expulsion of Anil Santha, a manager and alleged rapist. Sanal Kumar, who owns Classic Factory, removed Santha, only to reinstate him a month after the workers returned.
Fast fashion has little consequence to our wallets, but the conditions they encourage on the production side make all the difference between a life lived in dignity and one of depravity. It’s time for us—both the retailer and the consumer—to admit our roles in spawning these atrocities. “My request is that it doesn‘t matter who it is, but please bring some relief to what we suffer…Please help us,” says a rape victim known only as “Latha.” “Help save the lives and innocent dreams of these workers. Please do something to have Anil removed so that the lives and hopes of other innocent girls are not destroyed further.”