According to witnesses who work at Classic Fashion, scores of young Sri Lankan women sewing clothing for Wal-Mart and Hanes have suffered routine sexual abuse and repeated rapes, and in some cases even torture. One young rape victim at the Classic factory in Jordan told us her assailant, a manager, bit her, leaving scars all over her body. Women who become pregnant are forcibly deported and returned to Sri Lanka. Women who refuse the sexual advances of Classic’s managers are also beaten and deported.
Classic, the largest garment export factory in Jordan, sews clothing for Wal-Mart, Hanes, Kohl’s, Target and Macy’s. The garments enter the U.S. duty-free under the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement.
On the weekly holiday, the alleged serial rapist general manager, Anil Santha, sends a van to bring four or five young women to his hotel, where he abuses them. The lives of the young Sri Lankan rape victims are completely shattered, as in their culture, virginity is highly prized and critical for a good marriage.
In October 2010, 2,400 Sri Lankan and Indian workers went on strike demanding the removal of the alleged rapist, Anil. Classic’s owner, Sanal Kumar, sent Anil away, but he returned after one month.
Through the Institute/National Labor Committee’s reports, the Ministry of Labor has been made aware of the sexual abuse as early as 2007, but has done nothing.
The standard shift at Classic is 13 hours a day, six and seven days a week, with some 18 1⁄2 hour shifts before the clothing must be shipped to the U.S. According to witness testimonies, workers are routinely cursed at, hit and shortchanged of their wages for failing to reach their mandatory production goals. To press the women to work faster, managers grope and fondle them.
The workers — who are from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Egypt, earn a take-home wage of just 61 cents an hour.
The workers are housed in primitive dorms lacking heat or hot water, but which are infested with bed bugs. The women have extremely limited freedom of movement and are allowed to leave the factory compound just one day a week for six hours. When they are forced to work through their weekly holiday, they may be allowed out just once or twice a month.
The minimal efforts of Wal-Mart, Hanes and the other labels to monitor factory conditions at Classic have failed completely. Workers are threatened by management and forced to say that conditions are good.
This report was published by the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights in June 2011; it is reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes.