Understanding Forced Labour
The Indian society reeks of hypocrisy. We see children forced to work in
households to make their ends meet, yet the garbage of the education system
teaches us otherwise that forced labor and child labor are evils in society.
It's not like the schools force children to clean their infrastructures because
they belong to a different caste.
It's a superbly broad topic, but it highlights
how forced labour and child labour exist in our society because people don't see
children and the weak as human beings. They couldn't even get out of their
rotten bubble of dying traditions and caste system. It's a topic I would like to
discuss another time. For now, let's stick to forced labor.
In our Constitution, Articles 23 and 24 (Fundamental Rights) disallows anyone
from forcing anyone working with little to no payment, especially employing
children under 14 years. The Constitution inspired the Factories Act 1948, the
Mines Act 1952, and the Child Labour Acts of 1986 and 2016 to follow suit.
However, the thing about laws is they are rule books written on paper. And rule
books are mostly ignored.
When it comes to profits, decaying traditions, and poverty, people defenestrate
these rules like détente during the Cold War. Probably the unequal party guilty
of this is the corporations, especially in the fashion industry. There's a movie
called Zoolander where the main villain, a fashion icon wanted to assassinate
the Malaysian Prime Minister. The reason was to get their fashion products from
child labor operations.
A movie that came out in 2001 satirizes the corruption existing in the fashion
industry. In general, it highlights how world-renowned corporations and
conglomerates have been using forced labour and child labour to make personal
profits. People have become weary of the ethics of late-stage capitalism.
Corporations, Double Standards, and Forced Labour
American Corporations were preaching about racism, human rights, and police
brutality when the George Floyd Protests were at their prime. While at the same
time, they were working with Beijing, the last place any human rights activists
should go. The treatment of Uighurs and Hong Kong protesters says a lot about
China's human rights.
Despite the criticisms, American companies like Blizzard,
Disney, Apple, Amazon, Tesla, and so on are willing to work with the Chinese
Government because the companies wanted a piece of the Communist Gold.
The example becomes very clear when Blizzard banned a Hearthstone player for
voicing out for Hong Kong protests. Just because they didn't want to displease
their Chinese political masters. The move was criticised by many players. They
demanded the boycott of the company.
Things got so bad that even the US Congress
spoke out against the ban. When the Mulan Controversy came, Disney came under
hot water for not taking action against the Mulan star actress when the latter
spoke in favour of the state-sponsored police brutality in Hong Kong. When
Disney's set was also found near Uighur Concentration Camps. Mind you, this is
the same company that fired people like James Gunn over jokes made a decade ago.
Lots of people revere Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, myself included. I even defended
Elon Musk when the New York Times made a hit piece on him for "stealing memes."
However, I should also not include the fact that they made billions from the
backs of children working in their sweatshops in China. Tesla also came under
fire when they set up their showroom in the Xinjiang region. The region of
interest is where the Uighur Forced Labor camps were set up.
We see Dubai as one of the most iconic metropolises in the world. We know it
because of their rich lifestyle, cuisines, tall skyscrapers, exotic beaches,
luxury cars, etc. However, that is an illusion created by Instagram influencers.
In reality, forced labour, ill-treatment against migrant workers, poor
sanitation system, and human rights abuses are the true faces of Dubai.
These companies pretend to be aware of the socio-political climate in the West,
and they preach it as if they care.
Look at Disney, preaching about equality and
justice to all people in the aftermath of George Floyd's death while at the same
time, they're willing to throw those ideals when they're running their
sweatshops in China. These sweatshops often have children toiling for many hours
with little to no regard for their human rights. It's ironic that the company
whose main demographics are mostly children uses children in another country to
make their toys.
This is why I believe that woke culture is nothing more than
floccinaucinihilipilification. Companies don't care about the ideals they preach
when it comes to personal profits. The previous year, a whistleblower published
an article called "Wokeyleaks" which criticizes the modern-day wokeness amongst
celebrities, journalists, and artists.
In the said article, the people are no longer revolutionaries or activists, but
rather they are consumers. Social justice has been deduced to corporate branding
exercises. People talk big about democracy and equality while using phones that
are made in faraway fiefdoms by serfs. Fashion influencers talk big about
removing the statues of dead slave owners, while at the same time they get brand
deals and advertisement deals from the fashion brand companies that rely on
Fashion, and the Forced Labour Supply Chains
Now let's highlight the elephant in the room. The fashion industry has been
guilty of relying on forced labor to sell their clothes and shoes. I have
nothing against fashion because it shows the most stylist sides of us human
beings. It's their ethics that I have concerns with. Most fashion corporations
tend to rely on countries like India, Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, etc. to get
their products made. We all know these countries have abhorring human rights
In India, companies like IKEA, WE Fashion, Marc' O Polo, etc. are linked with
forced labor operations in Tamil Nadu. There are also reports of abuses in the
spinning, garment, and textile industries. The employers take advantage of the
employees' poor condition by making false promises to them while making them
live in hostels with little to no facilities.
Their private hermit space is also isolated, meaning no contact with the outside
world. The pandemic has made their already miserable situation more worse
through overtime work with decreased salaries. In worse situations, the workers
are easily laid off by the employers. The same situation also exists in
countries like Bangladesh and Cambodia.
China is the haven for authoritarian regimes. Many corporations are happy to be
in bed with them because they see China as a potential market and piggy bank.
This is why many fashion brands like Adidas, Calvin Klien, Tommy Hilfiger, etc.
are willing to work in China (and they are also linked to Xinjiang Uighur Forced
When the allegations of abuse of Uighurs became apparent, former US President
Donald Trump banned the import of cotton from the Xinjiang region. The US, UK,
Canada, and the EU sanctioned the Chinese for the abuse of workers allegations.
But any change can now be seen as too little too late. Many people now see that
the West has deliberately worked with Beijing in atrocities against Uighurs over
There are laws and case laws like in the case of People's Union for Democratic
Rights v. Union of India where the Supreme Court explained the definition and
scope of forced labour (a person getting less remuneration than the minimum
There are articles in the Constitution that give the victims of forced labour
and child laborers their rights like:
- Article 21- Enshrines life and personal liberty to the citizens.
- Article 42- Ensures working conditions that are humane.
- Article 43- The working conditions must have a standard of providing a
decent way of life to the citizens of this country.
And some politicians make promises to take action against forced labour. But
politicians are expert liars and laws are just ineffective rules that sound
strong on paper. So basically the responsibility lies to the citizens and
netizens. Social media has indeed become a vomiting police state, and they'll
most likely listen to the suits rather than listening to people.
At the same
time, it could be used to fight against actual injustice. So it's better that
people call out these fashion brands or corporations of other mediums who
profited from forced labour. It's much better than cancelling people on Twitter
for trivial reasons because somehow the mob has the warped sense of justice.
Another approach is to stop buying their products. This is something that I've
said in Los Angeles Times when the Activision Blizzard Sexual Misconduct Case
was at its height. Fashion brands only care about making money by any means
necessary. So if we stop buying their products, then it could hurt them
monetarily. At least in that way, they could be held accountable. It might sound
impossible, but it's a practical way to make corporations commit more atrocities
against the victims of forced labour and child labour.
- Right Against Exploitation - Articles 23 - 24: Fundamental Rights For
UPSC Indian Polity (BYJUS, 2022) accessed 10 January 2022
- Zoolander - Wikipedia (En.wikipedia.org, 2022) accessed 10 January 2022
- Zoolander Analysis (prezi.com, 2022) accessed 10 January 2022.
- Sherman N, 'George Floyd: Why Are Companies Speaking Up This Time?' (BBC
News, 2022) accessed 10 January 2022
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Reference To Activision Blizzard Case:' (ADR Association Blog,
2022) accessed 10 January 2022
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(Youth Ki Awaaz, 2022) accessed 10 January 2022
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Abuses' (New York Post, 2022) accessed 10 January 2022
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2022) accessed 10 January 2022
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Interesting, 2022) accessed 10 January 2022
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2021) accessed 10 January 2022
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Jezebel, 2022) accessed 10 January 2022
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Culture' (Youth Ki Awaaz, 2022) accessed 10 January 2022
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2022) accessed 10 January 2022
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Mills' (SOMO, 2022) accessed 10 January 2022
- Suleymanova R, 'Are Your Favourite Fashion Brands Using Forced Labour?'
(Aljazeera.com, 2022) accessed 10 January 2022
- Virtually Entire' Fashion Industry Complicit in Uighur Forced Labour,
Say Rights Groups (The GuardianJuly 23, 2020) accessed January 10, 2022
- AP and others, Laws Related to Bonded Labour in India (iPleadersJune
23, 2017) accessed January 10, 2022
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Angeles TimesAugust 7, 2021) accessed January 10, 2022
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India, Youth Ki Awaaz (May 12, 2021), www.youthkiawaaz.com/2021/05/the-pseudo-culture-is-harming-the-internet-and-india/.