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We’ve all quoted Liam Neeson’s classic moment from Taken at some dramatic point in our life, but what exactly do we know about human trafficking outside of Hollywood’s dramatisation?

Well for the 3rd largest criminal industry in the world that earns an estimated £32 billion in profit every year, there is still a lot we don’t know. This is because human trafficking thrives off secrecy and underground networks. And if there is one thing the fashion industry can supply, it’s secrecy.

“Apparel is one of the top industries plagued by human trafficking”
Kelly Heinrich and Kavitha Sreeharsha, Global Freedom Center

There is no disagreement that from cotton growing through to garment manufacturing and fashion models, trafficking is prevalent at every stage. As fashion is a global industry, almost no country in the world is exempt from trafficking and it isn’t always obvious to identify because it takes so many forms.

In Uzbekistan, the state forced over 1 million of its citizens, including children, to harvest cotton in abusive conditions in 2012 alone. In India, fake apprenticeship schemes trick people in factories where people are forced in to 12 hour days, 6 or 7 days a week and left vulnerable to sexual and physical abuse. In Cambodia, Specialised Economic Zones are set up in countries to attract trade from Western states by suspending labor laws and human rights concerns in an attempt to increase profit margins. Despite the textile and apparel industry being one of the most managed and protected trades, this protection stops short at labourers.

“What we need is more transparency”

Patricia Jurewicz, Founder & Director of the Responsible Sourcing Network

All of this hides and thrives within the secrecy off the garment trade. Unknown and outsourced suppliers of raw materials, threads, textiles and labour all contributing to garments means it creates the perfect conditions for exploitation and trafficking. Transparency in supply chains holds employers, brands and governments responsible for the protection of labourers and supports trade unions in their fight. We are so excited to see more brands publishing their supply chains and also to begin working with factories like Freeset in Kolkata that are working to create prevention and also restoration for women that have been trafficked.

Let's Act. 


The next time you are shopping in fast fashion, pause to remember that the product you’re holding is not just a product of labour and the environment; but also a product of systems of oppression. Slowing down when shopping is not about feeling guilty, but about remaining aware of the realities and being conscious of how your money can be used positively!


Challenge yourself to make your next buy from somewhere that knows their entire supply chain and are fighting for justice! Support the transition to transparency and against trafficking!


Sumangali follows the story of women in Tamil Nadu, India, who have been trafficked into cotton mills. A must watch to understand the intimate link between trafficking and the global fashion industry. 

We are obsessed with this book, Moore uses comics to highlight complex issues within trafficking and fashion. This engaging book is based on personal interviews and challenges any preconception you may have about trafficking and feminism.


Some kick-ass groups you can support in their fight against trafficking and exploitation


 Other articles:

Lexis Nexis - Cotton Human Trafficking 
Fast Fashion - How Slavery Fuels Our Style
Unicef India Cotton Report
Huffington Post - Slavery In My T-Shirt



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