Bonded Child Labor in India's Silk Industry
January 23, 2003

The Indian government is failing to protect the rights of hundreds of thousands of children who toil as virtual slaves in the country's silk industry, Human Rights Watch said in this new report.

The 85-page report, "Small Change: Bonded Child Labor in India's Silk Industry,"calls on the Indian government to implement its
national laws to free and rehabilitate these "bonded children." Bound to their employers in exchange for a loan to their families, they are unable to leave while in debt and earn so little they may never be free. A majority of them are Dalits, so-called untouchables at the bottom of India's caste system. Human Rights Watch interviewed children, employers, government officials and members of nongovernmental organizations in three states that form the core of India's sari and silk industries: Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

At every stage of the silk industry, bonded children as young as five years old work 12 or more hours a day, six and a half or seven days a week. Children making silk thread dip their hands in boiling water that burns and blisters them. They breathe smoke and fumes from machinery, handle dead worms that cause infections, and guide twisting threads that cut their fingers. As they assist weavers, children sit at cramped looms in damp, dim rooms. They do not go to school and are often beaten by their employers. By the time they reach adulthood, they are impoverished, illiterate, and often crippled by the work, the report said.

Read the Report
ISBN: C1502