This article has been updated 4th April 2021
Jeyasre Kathiravel was a 21-year-old Dalit woman from Tamil Nadu, India. She was the first person in her rural village to go to college, but despite this she was forced to get a job as a garment worker at a factory called Natchi Apparel. It was not a job she intended to keep for long.
The workers at Natchi Apparel say they work under extreme pressure, making more than 1,000 items of clothing a day. The hours are long and the pay is low and sexual harassment from the male managers is constant. “Even married women are not safe. It is just abuse and production targets. We are nothing more to the factory,” one woman told the Guardian. Another woman said sexual violence had been going on for years: “It happens a lot on the night shift.”
This is not some back street workshop, but a factory owned by India’s fourth biggest clothing exporter Eastman Exports, and a supplier factory for Swedish megabrand H&M.
On the 1st January 2021, Jeyasre did not come home. Her family searched for her, calling on neighbours to help them, but Jeyasre was nowhere to be found. Four days later her body was discovered in some wasteland. She had been raped and murdered by her manager at Natchi Apparel – a man who has since confessed and been charged for this horrific crime.
April 1st, 2021 marked three months since the night of Jeyasre’s murder, three months in which instead of being paid a dignified compensation, her family have been bullied and threatened.
After months of lobbying on the morning of April 1st 2021, Asia Floor Wage Alliance announced that an agreeable compensation arrangement had finally been reached. It had been three months since the The Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Labour Union, (an independent, Dalit women-led trade union) alerted H&M and put forth their demands for basic worker protections. H&M has still failed to implement a binding agreement to prevent more sexual violence at the factory. Since the murder, twenty five more women have come forward to say they have also experienced sexual abuse at Natchi Apparel – protection for this workforce is vital.
It is three months since the The Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Labour Union, (an independent, Dalit women-led trade union) alerted H&M and put forth their demands for basic worker protections, but so far the response has been negligible. H&M has still failed to implement a binding agreement to prevent more sexual violence at the factory. Since the murder, twenty five more women have come forward to say they have also experienced sexual abuse at Natchi Apparel – protection for this workforce is vital.
If H&M and Eastman Exports are allowed to brush Jeyasre’s murder under the carpet then no woman in the garment industry is safe. If the corporations at the heart of this case face no sanctions then rape and murder in fashion supply chains has been normalised.
That is why the Justice For Jeyasre campaign is calling on everyone who cares about women’s rights, labour rights, and minority rights to show up for this campaign on April 1st and throughout the month.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP THIS CAMPAIGN
Make a homemade #JusticeForJeyasre placard and take a photo or selfie outside a branch of H&M. Share the photo using the # and tag H&M.
Photo: Jess Hurd
Go onto H&M’s social media accounts and tell them what you think about gender based violence in their supply chains – see the website for sample posts in both English and Swedish
Make a #JusticeForJeyasre banner from a sheet and hang it out of your window. Take a photo and share. Use the # and tag H&M
Make a #JusticeForJeyasre sign. Take a photograph of yourself holding it then share it everywhere online. Use the # and tag H&M
Stitch #JusticeForJeyasre onto a t-shirt or other item of clothing. Take a photo and share online. Use the # and tag H&M
Hold a die-in outside your local branch of H&M. Use the # and tag H&M
Share THESE INFOGRAPHICS to your social media accounts. Use the # and tag H&M
Among its many horrors, the Covid-19 pandemic has been a moment of global commonality. Even while the pandemic’s impact has varied wildly, there has been solidarity in a form of shared experience. The same has been true of this year’s protests. Black Lives Matter demonstrations ricocheted around the world, exposing once more the racism at the heart of power in the US and beyond. The #KillTheBill and Reclaim These Streets movement has memorialised not just Sarah Everard but thousands more women who have experienced violence and sexual assault by men.
These protests spread because there was an instantaneous knowledge, pain, and anger about the things that caused them. This is an anger that exists in the clothes we wear. It is an anger that should spread to #JusticeForJeyasre – a bright young woman from a marginalised community whose life was stolen by the cruel forces that value profit over people.
For more information about this campaign please visit.