News - 2021 2021

Arbeitsausweis von Jeyasre Kathiravel. Foto: Handout

Killing of female textile worker sheds new lights on structural violence in Indian factories.

The female textile worker, as well as the supervisor both worked in Natchi factory, which is one of multiple factories in Tamil Nadu producing for the entire globe. In several cases, inhuman working conditions including long working hours, and starvation wages are common. Many of the textile workers are migratory labourers coming from states in northern India. These workers do live in a Hostel at the factory area. Jeyasre was in a better position, as living with her parents.

Jeyasre was an ambitious young woman, working in Natchi factory for three years. During morning hours, she studied to gain her Master´s degree. From afternoon until evening, Jeyasre worked in the factory to cover the costs for her studies. Coming from the cast of the untouchables (the Dalits), Jeyasre has been part of a lower cast than her supervisor. The Dalits are repeatedly victims of exploitation and violence.

According to Indian law, there must be a committee existing in any factory to protect young women against sexual violence. These committees (ICCs) must be independent and should be available to receive complaints. In real manners, such committees do only exist on paper, or they are not operating adequately. SAVE, which is a partner of FEMNET, provided trainings in Natchi factory and states, the management level of the factory does not care enough to ensure the committee operates adequately.  

Natchi Apparels is part of the large and well-known Eastman Group. Arranged in two shifts, more than 1500 workers do work here. H&M, and Lidl do produce via Natchi Apparel. Both organizations do not tolerate discrimination and violence against women according to their codes of conducts. Anyhow, the case of Jeyasre supports the suspicion of both enterprises having neglected their due diligence towards their production partners. Not only the codes of conducts are stating that production partners do practice zero tolerance against sexual violence, also the UN guiding principles for business and human rights do oblige to do so.

Within a first step, the local labour union TTCU, and the supporting Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA), as well as SAVE, FEMNET, and the Clean Clothes Campaign desire an independent investigation of the killing of Jeyasre and an appropriate compensation for the family.

Furthermore, the companies on-site (meaning the Eastman Group, as well as their purchasers Lidl and H&M) must arrange written arrangements to practically implement zero-tolerance against gender specific violence at workplace. In that manner, the adequate operation of the complaints committee ICC must be ensured. That means, complaints must be taken and supervisors which execute sexual harassment and/or violence must be dismissed. Long-term changes can only be achieved, if the top management is liable under a contract, and if purchasing enterprises do regularly monitor the practical implementation.

FEMNET contacted both enterprises, asking which actions are going to be taken. Whereas H&M also declares itself in favour of the independent investigation, Lidl only reacted with general platitudes. Both enterprises did not implement any actions so far.