Modern slavery work

"We are treated like slaves. We are not allowed to talk to our families on the phone, often don't get any food and are beaten. Many girls are afraid and don't tell their parents about the situation."
- (Worker who does not want to be named)

#Against modern slavery in Indian spinning mills

Exploitation of workers, especially women, is commonplace in the textile industry. However, the so-called "Sumangali" system in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu is a particularly perfidious specification. “Sumangali” translated into English means "happy bride". But the girls and women who are lured to the local spinning mills under this motto are not awaiting any happiness, but are literally and brutally enslaved.

Facts of exploitation

  • 70-85 % of the female workers are minors: 14-18 years.
  • The wage, which is only paid after several years, is not even 20% of the statutory minimum wage.
  • 12-hour working days or night shifts are common place, often with only one day off per week.

The exploitation system has recently been called "Camp Labour" rather than "Sumangali" by the factories, which does not change the fact that it is forced labour in contempt of humanity. You can read more facts about this form of modern exploitation and definitions of terms in our background research.

FEMNET has been providing information about this exploitation system since 2015. We have published studies and organized lecture tours through Germany by women from India. As a women's rights organisation, we are particularly committed to the oppressed girls in the spinning mills.

Our goals

We want to improve working conditions in the spinning mills of Tamil Nadu and put an end to the enslavement of young women and girls in the Sumangali or Camp Labour system.

This is what we want to achieve:

  1. The elimination of inhumane working conditions by politicians and companies.
  2. To gain the attention of consumers and the media in order to put the topic on the social agenda and thus exert pressure on companies and politics.
  3. The sustainable and systemic improvement of working conditions in the Tamil Nadu spinning mills and more effective controls by state inspectors.


Load video with Youtube-Cookies

Our activities and measures

Sumangali Rundreise

Campaign #Against modern slavery

With a nationwide campaign #against modern slavery, we are campaigning to raise awareness and make the devastating working conditions in the spinning mills public in order to pave the way for the abolition of the Sumangali system.

Active in Germany...


Sumangali Fachtagung Mai 2016. © FEMNET


Lecture tour and educational offers

From May 9th to 20th, 2016, together with our partners of the NGO SAVE, we organised a lecture tour throughout Germany with two experts from India - the scientist Dr. Anibel Ferus-Comelo, author of a study on the topic and Mary Viyakula, staff member of SAVE.

Report of the speakers tour (German)...


Konferenz Bündnisinitiative Tamil Nadu März 2019. © FEMNET


Alliance initiative Tamil Nadu: Better working conditions for around 500,000 workers

Together with our Indian partner organisation SAVE, we have initiated a project within the scope of the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles to improve working conditions in the spinning mills of the state of Tamil Nadu together with industry and politics - the "Alliance Initiative Tamil Nadu". Since July 2018, our partner organisation SAVE has been working on site to counteract the exploitation of young women in the Sumangali or Camp Labour system, which is widespread in the region. SAVE has initiated training programmes for workers and management in 300 spinning mills. In this way we want to improve the working conditions of about 500,000 workers by the beginning of 2020.