H&M to probe violence, sex abuse in Asian fashion factories

In this Sept. 2, 2017, photo, North Korean workers walk into the Hong Chao Zhi Yi garment factory after visiting a street market in the city of Hunchun in northeastern China's Jilin province. (AP)
Updated 06 June 2018

H&M to probe violence, sex abuse in Asian fashion factories

  • All forms of abuse or harassment are against everything that H&M group stands for
  • The charities said they had found widespread sex harassment, verbal and physical abuse

LONDON: Fashion giants H&M and Gap Inc. vowed on Tuesday to investigate reports that Asian garment workers who supply their high-street stores routinely face sex abuse, harassment and violence.
Based on interviews with some 550 workers in 53 H&M and Gap supplier factories in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka, rights groups said women were at “daily risk” of violence, and faced retaliation if they reported the attacks.
The coalition has investigated the factories for several years as efforts mount to push Western brands into improving safety along their supply chains and render them slave-free.
Clothes stitched by low-paid Asian workers — part of a complex global supply chain — end up on high-priced Western high streets, with some 4,750 H&M stores located in 69 countries and about 3,700 Gap shops operating in about 90 nations.
Sweden’s H&M — the world’s No. 2 clothes group after Zara owner Inditex (ITX.MC) — said it would review the findings of the recent report by the civil society groups and unions.
“We will go through every section of the report and follow up on (a) factory level with our local teams based in each production country,” a company spokesman said in a statement.
“All forms of abuse or harassment are against everything that H&M group stands for.”
US retailer Gap said it was “deeply concerned about the troubling allegations raised by this report.”
“Our global team is currently conducting our due diligence to investigate and address these issues,” a spokeswoman said.
The charities said they had found widespread sex harassment, verbal and physical abuse — such as slapping — and threats of retaliation when women refused sexual advances from bosses.

FORCED LABOUR?
A separate report published last month by the coalition of rights groups found similar abuse of women at supplier factories in Asia for US-based Walmart, the world’s largest retailer.
Walmart said last month that it was reviewing the “concerning” accounts cited in the report.
The Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), a group of trade unions, firms and charities of which both Gap and H&M are members, said it expected the retailers to work with the suppliers to ensure that women have swift access to remedy.
“These allegations are deeply concerning,” said Debbie Coulter of the ETI. “Gender-based violence is unacceptable under any circumstances, and brands need to make sure that women working in their supply chain are protected.”
Campaigners told the Thomson Reuters Foundation last month that the level of pressure and harassment faced by the workers in the three separate reports was approaching forced labor.
“Any time you have retaliation against workers, and coercion and control ... you are coming close to the line of forced labor,” Jennifer Rosenbaum of Global Labor Justice (GLJ), a network of worker and migrant organizations, said last month.
The reports have been published amid meetings hosted by the United Nations’ International Labour Organization (ILO) to work on the first global convention against workplace harassment after the #MeToo campaign thrust the issue into the spotlight. (Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths (Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience.


Bolsonaro takes on Norway for whaling, but bungles it

Updated 19 August 2019

Bolsonaro takes on Norway for whaling, but bungles it

  • Bolsonaro took to Twitter to criticize the Scandinavian country for its whaling practice and post spectacular — albeit misleading — images
  • Bolsonaro has been taking digs at Norway since the country announced that it was blocking €30 million of subsidies to Brazil, accusing it of turning its back on the fight against deforestation

OSLO: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Monday responded to Norway’s decision to halt its forest protection subsidies, taking to Twitter to criticize the Scandinavian country for its whaling practice and post spectacular — albeit misleading — images.
“Look at the killing of whales sponsored by Norway,” Bolsonaro wrote on Twitter.
The post includes a video and photographs of a spectacular whale hunt, where mammals in the shallow waters of a bay are slaughtered by people wading on shore, armed with hooked knives. The whales’ blood turns the waters red.
However, the images, reportedly taken on May 29 in Norway, illustrate a “grind,” a type of pilot whale hunt practiced exclusively in the Faroe Islands — a Danish territory in the North Atlantic.
Norway is one of the few countries in the world that authorizes commercial whaling, but the whales are hunted individually, at sea from a ship, and with grenade-mounted harpoons.
“We can confirm that the video/the photos are not from Norway,” the Norwegian fisheries ministry told AFP in an email.
“Our whale hunt takes place from ships at sea,” he said, arguing that the Norwegian practice was “sustainable.”
Bolsonaro was ridiculed on social media for the mix-up.
“Haha what a stupid president Brazil has! This is NOT from Norway! We don’t kill whales like that. Do your homework to get respected! ‘Fake news’ as Trump would have said,” wrote one Twitter user.
“False information is a crime Mr.President,” wrote another.
Bolsonaro has been taking digs at Norway since the country announced last week that it, like Germany, was blocking 30 million euros ($33 million) of subsidies to Brazil, accusing it of turning its back on the fight against deforestation.
Norway has been the single largest donor to the Amazon Fund for forest protection, giving almost 830 million euros since its creation 11 years ago.
Oslo said Brazil, under Bolsonaro’s leadership, “no longer wishes to stop deforestation” and said it unilaterally “broke the agreement” it had on the Amazon Fund.
Bolsonaro reacted immediately and angrily.
“Norway, isn’t that the country that kills whales up there, at the North Pole? And that produces oil too? That is not at all a role model to us. Let them keep their money and let them help Angela Merkel reforest Germany,” he said.