WHO WAS JEYASRE KATHIRAVEL?
Jeyasre Kathiravel was a 21-year-old Dalit woman from Tamil Nadu, India. She was the first person in her village to go to college.
Jeyasre got a job as a garment worker at a factory called Natchi Apparel in a rural part of Tamil Nadu. It was a job she always intended to leave as soon as she could find other employment.
But on January 1st 2021, Jeyasre did not return home from work. After an extensive search by her family and community that lasted four days, she was discovered dead in a patch of wasteland, having been raped and murdered. Her supervisor at Natchi Apparel has since confessed and been charged with this horrific crime.
Natchi Apparel is a garment factory owned by Eastman Exports Global Clothing, India’s fourth biggest apparel exporter. Natchi Apparel is a supplier factory for multinational fashion brand H&M. Workers at the factory say they are forced to make more than 1,000 items of clothing a day under relentless pressure.
Jeyasre Kathiravel’s death could have and should have been prevented. She had been repeatedly harassed at work by the man who eventually attacked and killed her. Since Jeyasre’s murder, more than 25 women have come forward to report harassment, and sexual abuse at Natchi Apparel. It is clear that gender-based violence at the factory was widespread.
Women at Natchi Apparel described a working environment in which male supervisors wield “total power.”
“Even married women are not safe. It is just abuse and production targets. We are nothing more to the factory.”
Another woman said sexual violence had been going on for years: “It happens a lot on the night shift.”Guardian
The Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Labour Union (TTCU), is an independent, Dalit women-led trade union, with a strong membership base in the region. They have alerted H&M and put forth their demands, but so far the response has been negligible.
Gender based violence is endemic across the global fashion industry. This violence is used to intimidate and subjugate women workers and stop them from claiming their right to fair, safe, dignified work. Unions to support and protect workers are few and far between and, when women are brave enough to speak up, they are often threatened, beaten, sacked, or raped and murdered. The fashion industry must end their reliance upon sexual violence against women.
“She was the first in our family to have the chance of having a life outside the garment factories,” said Muthulakshmi Kathiravel, Jeyasre’s mother. “My daughter told me that she was being tortured at work. I do not want other people’s daughters to suffer the same fate.”Guardian
An alliance of garment worker’s rights organisations including the ASIA FLOOR WAGE ALLIANCE (AFWA) state:
“The rape and murder of this young Dalit worker was the direct result of Eastman Exports and H&M’s failure to provide a workplace free of gender-based violence, including sexual harassment. The supplier blocks TTCU’s intervention and assistance for workers in order to prevent trade union activities and collective bargaining in the factory; H&M thus far in spite of its professed support for Freedom of Association has done nothing to promote and ensure the same.“
April 1st is the three month anniversary of Jeyasre’s murder. It is unacceptable that Jeyasre’s family have not received compensation and that H&M have not signed an Enforceable Brand Agreement (EBA) to protect other women from being attacked.
UPDATE at 08:25 UK time on 1st April 2021 it was announced by the Asia Floor Wage Alliance that Jeyasre’s family have reached an agreeable compensation settlement with Eastman Exports. UK Justice For Jeyasre is heartened by this news and we will concentrate our efforts today, and in the future, on calling for a binding agreement to end gender based violence at the factory and across fashion supply chains so that this appalling crime is not allowed to reoccur.
UK JUSTICE FOR JEYASRE will not allow rape and murder to become normalised in fashion supply chains. We stand in solidarity with Jeyasre’s family, and with the demands of the Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Labour Union (TTCU), the Asia Floor Wage Alliance, and Global Labor Justice. OUR DEMANDS:
- H&M must immediately ensure the payment of a decent and fair compensation for Jeyasre’s parents in a dignified manner (see above for agreement reached on April 1st)
- H&M must provide protection to the Kathiravel family and to Jeyasre’s colleagues who are under threat
- H&M must back full union recognition for the TTCU and freedom of association for workers at Natchi Apparel
- H&M must NOT cut and run from Natchi Apparel
- H&M must acknowledge the failure of its internal audit system, including its failure to ensure the proper functioning of Internal Complaints Committees (ICC), in accordance with Indian law, in preventing this incident, and in the light of other cases of sexual harassment reported from the factory.
- All workers at Natchi Apparel must be protected through an enforceable and binding agreement involving the TTCU union, brands and their supplier, Eastman Exports, to end the supply chain model relying on systemic gender-based violence.
- Case Summary, Asia Floor Wage Case-Summary-GBV-Case-at-Natchi-Apparels-AFWA-TTCU.pdf (floorwage.org)
- Statement on the case from the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, 21 March 2021 Statement in support of Jeyasre Kathiravel
- “Women’s union demands binding agreement from H&M after supplier sends mob and threatens family of murdered garment worker in India”, 1 February 2021, Global Labor Justice Women’s Union Demands Binding Agreement from H&M After Supplier Sends Mob and Threatens Family of Murdered Garment Worker in India – Global Labor Justice / Press-Release-TTCU-AFWA-GLJ-Jeyasres-Death.pdf (floorwage.org)
- “Worker at H&M supply factory was killed after months of harassment, claims family”, 1 February 2021, Annie Kelly, The Guardian Worker at H&M supply factory was killed after months of harassment, claims family | Sexual violence | The Guardian
- “H&M probes harassment at Indian factory after female worker’s killing”, 2 February 2021, Anuradha Nagaraj, Thomson Reuters Foundation, H&M probes harassment at Indian factory after female worker killed (trust.org)
- “Negotiations stalled as 90+ international labor groups call on H&M, Gap, PVH and their supplier Eastman exports to sign binding agreement to end gender-based violence” 5 February 2021, Global Labor Justice Negotiations Stalled as 90+ International Labor Groups Call on H&M, Gap, PVH and their Supplier Eastman Exports to Sign Binding Agreement to End Gender-Based Violence – Global Labor Justice
- “Female workers at H&M supplier in India allege widespread sexual violence”, 9 March 2021, Annie Kelly, The Guardian Female workers at H&M supplier in India allege widespread sexual violence | Global development | The Guardian