#Abuse of Underage #Girls by Factories in India With Promise of #Dowry

Tamil Nadu, February 25, 2015

An employment scheme known as “sumangali” in southern India, under which factories hire underage girls for labor with the promise of helping their parents with their daughters’ dowries at the end of the contract, is now an emerging form of abuse of underage girls in India.

Sumangali schemes in Tamil Nadu state employ only girls and women, between the ages of 14 to 20, and generally are offered by textile mills and garment factories. The mills target poor families, mainly daily wage earners from the low-caste Dalit community, and offer to sign up their daughters for a three-year contract. In Tamil “sumangali” means a happily married woman. In the case of the Sumangali scheme it is a girl/woman who can give dowry, alluding to the sum of money between 60,000 and 150,000 rupees ($965-2,410 dollars) offered as “marriage assistance” at the end of the contract.

However the girls are subject to atrocious working conditions and various forms of abuse by the supervisors. They are made to work up to 16 hours a day, in crammed, hot, poorly ventilated spaces that cause illnesses in the girls. There have reports of sexual abuse as well. The worst is that girls who want to leave are often not allowed to. Sumangali ultimately is a form of bonded and forced labour because the wages are withheld and girls are kept captive in the factory until they complete the contract.

Several international retailers have been linked with factories in Tamil Nadu accused of exploitative practices in a report by the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations released October. It found labour rights violations at five mills that supplied global brands.



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