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Victoria’s Secret Uses Child Labor To Produce Panties

Victoria’s Secret Uses Child Labor To Produce Panties

Ladies, you might want to think twice before shopping at Victoria’s Secret.

Bloomberg Markets recently published a report on Burkina Faso, where they spent six weeks investigating how cotton is harvested. Victoria’s Secret usually buys up Burkina Faso’s entire fair trade and organic-certified cotton crop to make the lingerie it sells in the West.

12 And 13-Year-Old Children Laboring In Fields On Pain Of Being Whipped

What they found was shocking: children of 12 and 13, laboring in the fields on pain of being whipped with switches by their bosses the cotton farmers.

From Bloomberg.com:

Clarisse Kambire’s nightmare rarely changes. It’s daytime. In a field of cotton plants that burst with purple and white flowers, a man in rags towers over her, a stick raised above his head. Then a voice booms, jerking Clarisse from her slumber and making her heart leap. “Get up!”

The man ordering her awake is the same one who haunts the 13-year-old girl’s sleep: Victorien Kamboule, the farmer she labors for in a West African cotton field. Before sunrise on a November morning she rises from the faded plastic mat that serves as her mattress, barely thicker than the cover of a glossy magazine, opens the metal door of her mud hut and sets her almond-shaped eyes on the first day of this season’s harvest.

And here’s how Bloomberg describes Clarisse’s day:

Bending at the waist, Clarisse buries the edge of the blade and starts scraping a deep row into the earth, taking small steps backward with each cut. “It’s very, very hard,” she says, “and he forces me to do it.” Before long, her arms and hips ache. “It’s painful,” she says. When she strikes rocks beneath the soil, it sends the blade cutting into her bare toes. If she slows down from exhaustion, “he comes to beat me,” she says. He whips her across the back with the tree branch and shouts at her. “I cry,” she says, looking down as she speaks and rubbing the calluses on her hands.

Not quite the image of Victoria’s Secret?

Burkina Faso-grown cotton is shipped to India and Sri Lanka, where it is milled into cloth, cut, sewn and finished. From there, finished underwear made of the fair trade organic cotton is shipped to the U.S., where it used to be sold by Victoria’s Secret with hang-tags that read, “Pesticide-free, 100% rain-fed cotton. Good for women.”

How Is This Fair Trade?

The “Fair Trade Certified” label is supposed to let buyers know that the farmers and farm workers in developing nations have received a fair price for their product – also that they encourage sustainable farming methods, limit the use of pesticides, and do not use forced child labor.

What’s going on in Burkina Faso is not fair trade.

Victoria’s Secret’s partners in cotton-sourcing, including the Swiss organization responsible for certifying the cotton and auditing producers, say they have raised concerns about child labor since 2008. Victoria’s Secret says it never saw the relevant report.

An executive for Victoria’s Secret’s parent company says the amount of cotton it buys from Burkina Faso is minimal, but it takes the child-labor allegations seriously.

“Our Standards Specifically Prohibit Child Labor”

From Bloomberg.com:

“They describe behavior contrary to our company’s values and the code of labor and sourcing standards we require all of our suppliers to meet,” Tammy Roberts Myers, vice president of external communications for Limited Brands Inc., said in a statement. Victoria’s Secret is the largest unit of the Columbus, Ohio-based company.

“Our standards specifically prohibit child labor,” she said. “We are vigorously engaging with stakeholders to fully investigate this matter.”

Please keep us updated on your investigation, Victoria’s Secret. And meanwhile, how about a boycott of their stores?

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Photo Credit: BrandsGym

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120 comments

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7:00AM PST on Jan 13, 2012

if you want to see Clarisse Kambire birth's certificate delivered by the UNPCB (Union nationale des producteurs de coton burkinabe) and her testimony filmed by the UNPCB, please go to :
http://www.challenges.fr/entreprise/20120111.CHA9125/quand-le-coton-equitable-de-victoria-s-secret-dechaine-les-passions.html

1:10PM PST on Jan 12, 2012

IMHO, the parents need to be punished for having kids to sell into slavery of any type. For them it's a business to have children to work for them or sell into the sex-slave industry. Of course, people are desperate when impoverished, but it's not right to use children as nothing more than a means to gain profit. We need to find ways to equally punish the parents who are "supplying the goods/labor" to the industries that are distributing them. This is a horrible mark against mankind to treat our children like commodities.

4:45PM PST on Jan 11, 2012

It's considerably tacky and void of innovative design... so it isn't a surprise really!

3:02PM PST on Jan 10, 2012

its sad.this n should never happen. i personal do not like victoria secret!!!!!!!!!!!its not really a big deal. its so espencer and it have nathing to impresd me. am glad i had never and never by nathing for vs.the whole thing is nathing more then bobo,caca!!!!!!!!!!!

10:47AM PST on Jan 5, 2012

This is really saddening. How greedy companies are.

5:30AM PST on Jan 5, 2012

Women are exploited every time they buy less than an ounce of material for the price Victoria's Secret tags on it anyway. This just makes for a larger profit margin using the same methods that many companies use (where you get a little bit more material for your money.) Unfortunately, I suspect that even Granny's giant panties are made from the same bolt of cotton so I'm not sure we should be targeting just one company here. What about pants,Tee shirts, undershirts, dresses, blouses, etc. made by other companies?
The real problem is child labor, in my opinion.

2:11AM PST on Jan 5, 2012

Thanks.

10:51AM PST on Jan 4, 2012

Following its own investigation of the claims made by Bloomberg, Fairtrade International released its response yesterday.

It can be found on the front page of www.fairtrade.net (or directly at www.bit.ly/FIBlmbgResp). In particular, it refutes the claims that the person featured in the articles was involved in cotton production at all (Fairtrade certified or otherwise) and that she was under the age of 18. It also raises serious concerns regarding the journalist’s methods.

Nevertheless, it should be noted that no system can guarantee that a product is 100% child labour free. However, the Fairtrade system has standards against it, an audit-based monitoring system to catch it if it occurs, and clear protocols on what to do if it does that focus first on the safety of any at-risk children and second on mitigating the risk of it happening again.

Michael Zelmer
Fairtrade Canada

7:29PM PST on Dec 29, 2011

This is clearly an issue of greed!!!
Thank you for getting this info out!

4:02PM PST on Dec 26, 2011

"Fair trade"? Hardly! This is sad and I hope it stops.

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