Modern Slavery in the Fashion Industry: Are We Blind To The Truth?
Just because we might not be able to see modern slavery, does that mean it doesn’t exist? According to The Global Slavery Index, over 40 million people are currently trapped in Modern Slavery around the world. Roughly 71% are women.
What is Modern Slavery?
According to the Walk Free Foundation, modern slavery “refers to situations where one person has taken away another person’s freedom- their freedom to control their body, their freedom to chose to refuse certain work or to stop working- so that they can be exploited”. Technically the term has no legal definition, but includes crimes such as human trafficking, forced labour, debt bondage, and the exploitation of children.
Modern Slavery in The Fashion Industry
According to the Global Slavery Index, the fashion industry is one of the biggest promoters of Modern Slavery in the world. In fact, garments are the second highest product at risk of being made by modern slaves. (Technological items such as laptops and computers are the most at risk-products).
While disturbing, it is not entirely surprising that the fashion industry is so linked to modern slavery. Since the collapse of the Rana Plaza Factory that claimed the lives of over 1,000 garment workers in 2013, we have become more and more aware of the systemic human rights violations of the fashion industry. However, the Global Slavery Index shines a light on the sheer magnitude of the problem.
So What Can We Do?
While the countries with the highest prevalence of modern slavery are located in Asia and Africa, according to the Global Slavery Index 2018, “By declaring modern slavery as a problem that happens ‘over there’, high-GDP countries are ignoring their culpability for this human rights crisis”
To illustrate, estimates suggest that the UK imports roughly £18 billion worth of products that are at risk of supporting modern slavery. It is important to note that many of these products are from UK brands, and simply manufactured abroad.
So what can we do stop supporting modern slavery abroad? At the crux of the solution is transparency. Australia has announced it will implement supply chain transparency laws and other nations should follow suit. Until then, we must continue to act as our own detectives and demand transparency and accountability from the brands we support. We must choose to inform ourselves, vote with our wallets and shape the future we want to live in.