Why Do Indian Children Keep Falling Into The Gap?

Last Updated Oct 29, 2007 2:53 PM EDT

child-labor.jpgDespite having established an ethical code three years ago amid a child labor scandal, Gap Inc's factories are still abusing children. The Observer's undercover reporters found children as young as 10 years old -- some sold by their families -- making clothes for Gap Kids in a New Delhi sweatshop. The children described long hours, threats, and beatings.

In its damage-control scramble, Gap's touting its ethical standards, highlighting the company's ongoing prevention efforts and commitment to policing child labor (Gap terminated 136 supplier relationships in the past over child labor.) A Gap spokesman said:

"At Gap, we firmly believe that under no circumstances is it acceptable for children to produce or work on garments. These allegations are deeply upsetting and we take this situation very seriously. All of our suppliers and their sub-contractors are required to guarantee that they will not use child labor to produce garments. It is clear that one of our vendors violated this agreement, and a full investigation is under way. After learning of this situation, we immediately took steps to stop this work order and to prevent the product from ever being sold in our stores. We are also convening a meeting of our suppliers where we will reinforce our prohibition on child labor."
With all that prevention in place, why did it take a media outlet to uncover the New Delhi child labor violation? With that in mind, consumers might not be as forgiving as they were after 2004. In fact, they may start questioning why Gap stays in India at all.

Bhuwan Ribhu, a Delhi lawyer and activist for the Global March Against Child Labour, expressed a sentiment consumers may start to echo:

"Gap may be one of the best-known fashion brands with a public commitment to social responsibility, but the employment [by subcontractors ultimately supplying major international retail chains] of bonded child slaves as young as 10 in India's illegal sweatshops tells a different story.

The reality is that most major retail firms are in the same game, cutting costs and not considering the consequences. They should know by now what outsourcing to India means."

(Child Labor image courtesy of impious, cc 2.0)