Three major US brands vowed to crack down on abuse in Lesotho factories making their jeans recently after an investigation found women were forced into sex to keep their jobs. Levi Strauss & Co, Kontoor Brands – which owns Wrangler and Lee jeans – and The Children’s Place signed agreements to end pervasive sexual harassment in five factories where some 10,000 women make their clothes in the tiny southern African country.
“These breakthrough agreements set an example for the rest of the apparel industry on how to address harassment and abuse,” said Rola Abimourched, Senior Program Director with Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), which uncovered the violations.
Garment manufacture – with a focus on denim for export – has grown to become the largest formal sector employer in the 2 mn-strong landlocked southern African countries over the last there decades, providing jobs to around 40,000 people.
WRC found women were regularly coerced into sexual activity with supervisors to get or keep their jobs in three factories making jeans for the US brands, owned by Taiwan-based global jeans manufacturer Nien Hsing Textile. Nien Hsing Textile employs one-quarter of the tiny African nation’s total garment workforce.