H&M Responds to Gender-Based Violence at a Facility That Makes Its Clothing
H&M has responded after Jeyasre Kathiravel, a 20-year-old garment worker at the brand's supplier Natchi Apparels (which is owned by Eastman Exports) in Kaithian Kottai, Tamil Nadu, was found dead near her home.
According to police reports obtained by The Guardian, a man who was her supervisor at the supplier's facility confessed to killing her and has been charged with her abduction and murder. Her family and coworkers claim that prior to her death, she was repeatedly harassed and intimidated by her supervisor. They say that Kathiravel reported the abuse on several occasions but nothing was done about it.
A union leader for the workers at the factory told the outlet that gender-based harassment was commonplace.
"Her family and co-workers have told us that Jeyasre was being harassed at work but nothing was done," Thivya Rakini state president of the Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Labour Union (TTCU) said. "Many workers we have spoken to say they are facing the same problems but either don't know how to report grievances against their supervisors or say they are afraid if they speak out they will face retaliation."
After public outcry on social media from several activist organizations like Clean Clothes Campaign, Remake, and Asia Floor Wage Alliance, H&M released a statement saying that they would conduct a third-party investigation into the harassment claims at Eastman Exports and work toward ending gender-based violence in its supply chain.
"The trade unions involved have explicitly asked us not to terminate the business relationship with the supplier in question, and instead actively work to strengthen the workplace safety. We are therefore in close contact with the supplier and have set some immediate and urgent actions that we expect them to complete in order to demonstrate how they can guarantee a workplace free from harassment," the statement reads.
In the fashion industry, regulating the supply chain in a way that protects the workers – 80% of whom are women – has been one of the most pervasive problems that often results in unsafe working conditions that go unreported. Regular, structured oversight and third party investigations are a critical step in moving toward a more equitable fashion industry.
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