New Report shows Continued Use of Forced Child Labor in Uzbekistan’s Cotton Industry Despite Some Improvement

For Immediate Release

International Labor Rights Forum
Contact: 

Bama Athreya, 202-347-4100 ext. 106 or 202-701-3051, bama.athreya@ilrf.org

New Report shows Continued Use of Forced Child Labor in Uzbekistan’s Cotton Industry Despite Some Improvement

WASHINGTON - A new report released today by the International
Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) and anonymous human rights activists shows that while
international pressure from retailers and consumers has had some effect in
curbing forced child labor in the production of cotton in Uzbekistan, the
practice is still pervasive.

The report has been released in conjunction with
a call to boycott Uzbek cotton from nearly 50 Uzbek human rights activists
living around the world. In an open letter (available
online here
) to international financial institutions and cotton traders,
Uzbek activists said the cotton sector needs
comprehensive reform to end the forced child labor that helps to line the
pockets of the Uzbek political and economic elite.

The new ILRF report documents the following:

  • Since gaining
    independence in 1991, Uzbekistan’s
    authoritarian government has increased its reliance on forced child labor
    to harvest cotton. Uzbekistan
    is the third largest exporter of cotton in the world.
  • The Uzbek
    government closes schools during the cotton harvest and forces children as
    young as nine to perform dangerous work in the cotton fields.
  • Schools were
    assigned quotas to fulfill, and principals of schools that did not meet
    the quotas were threatened with dismissal.  The consequences for children
    and families who objected to taking part were severe: beatings were
    commonplace.

International brands and retailers including
Tesco, Walmart, Target, Levi Strauss, Gap, Limited Brands and Marks and Spencer
have agreed to ban Uzbek cotton from their supply chains until the practice of
forced child labor is ended. 

Bama
Athreya, Executive Director of the International Labor Rights Forum,
said, “Despite the international outcry from companies, investors, human
rights and labor activists, the practice of forced child labor continues in
Uzbekistan’s cotton industry.  We call on the Uzbek government to stop
these abuses in this year’s cotton harvest.  Consumers do not want the
sweat of exploited workers in their clothes.”

The full report, “‘We Live Subject
to their Orders’: A Three-Province Survey of Forced Child Labor in Uzbekistan’s
2008 Cotton Harvest” can be found online here: http://www.laborrights.org/stop-child-labor/cotton-campaign/uzbekistan/resources/2135.

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