Modern Slavery in the Spinning Mills of India (Sumangali – ‘ Happy Bride’)

Sumangali Survivers. Photo: © Gisela Burckhardt, FEMNET In India young women between ages 14-18 years are kept and treated in ultra-modern spinning mills like slaves. Young girls and women often from the Dalit caste a.k.a ‘the untouchables' are forced to work as labour in many textile mills across southern India for a minimum of three years and more. Minimum wages are not paid and instead at the end of their time, they are paid a small lumpsum, often only a few hundred euros – terms and conditions rarely stipulated in contracts. Until recently, this form of slavery was called Sumangali (The Happy Bride), because the lumpsum should serve as bride price. Although the mills do not use the term Sumangli anymore, the primitive structure of employment and working conditions, are the same. If anyone is unable to cope or continue with the contract period due to the inhumane working conditions, she often loses her claim to a payment of the premium.

FEMNET e.V. informs about this system of exploitation in Germany.


Project activities in 2016:

The working conditions within Indian spinning mills are hardly adequately addressed amongst the German public. A new study by FEMNET and CIVIDEP published in February 2016, throws light on the modus operandi of this production stage and activity. This study forms a basis for our work on a nationwide information campaign.

For the study CIVIDEP, researched various spinning mills in the state of Tamil Nadu, that form a key link in the textile value chain. Tamil Nadu has the most spinning mills in India and therefore studying the actual working and living conditions of young women aged 14-18 years plays an important role. Through the year, these results will be presented to the key decision makers coming from politics and business, the clothing sector, trade unions, NGOs ; and also to the general public – our consumers.


Symposium for companies, NGOs and trade unions, May 12th 2016

Invitation: „Working conditions in spinning mills in southern India" (English, PDF file, 04/2016)

Report of the Meeting, May 12th 2016


Recent Publications in English

"Challenges and Prospects for Decent Employment in Tamil Nadu's Spinning Mills" ( English, PDF file, 12/2015)


Background information

"Position Paper on Transparency" of the CCC campaign (English, PDF file, 4/2016)

Statement of the Fair Wear Foundation to Sumangali  (English, ext. Link, 3/2015)

Flawed fabrics. The abuse of girls and women workers in the South Indian textile industry (English, ext. Link, 10/2014)

Bonded (child) labour in the Indian garment industry (English, ext. Link, 6/2012)

Captured by Cotton. Exploited Dalit girls produce garments in India for European and US markets (English, ext. Link, 5/2011)


Press and Public Relations

If you would you like to cite or use our publications; report on the work of FEMNET or conduct interviews with FEMNET or the experts from India, then kindly send your inquiries addressed to:

Kristina Klecko
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Phone: +49 228 90 91 73 08


Press articles in German

"Backbreaking - ten, often twelve hours a day." - Anita Cheria, Indian human and women's rights activist, and Dr. Gisela Burckhardt in an interview, (Die ZEIT, Dec. 10th 2013)

"Bondage instead of wealth" (Der Tagesspiegel, Jan. 6th 2014)


Archives articles in German:

Exploitation and Debt Bondage in Indian Spinning Mills And Sewing Factories – A visit by Indian experts to FEMNET (12/2013)

Round trip: Exploitation in Indian Spinning Mills and Sewing Factories – An Insider Report (18.11.-03.12.2013)


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