A new code of conduct will make it that garment factories in the southern part of India will have to stop hiring teenage girls ages 16 to 19 to work night shifts. These workers will also be allowed time off when they are on their periods and they will no longer be made to work over a nine-hour shift, Aljazeera reports. Though it is a huge step forward, it’s important to note that the code of conduct is voluntary.
Southern India Mills’ Association (SIMA), the organization negotiating for better conditions in textile factories, told Aljazeera that “workers’ needs are being taken into account and we have zero tolerance to any form of abuse.”
Chairwoman of the Tamil Nadu State Commission for Women, Kannagi Packianathan, reiterated that the organizations are “working in tandem to create clear ground rules where women employees are concerned and are insisting on the prevention of sexual harassment laws being implemented.”
In 2017, Reuters reported that one in seven women in the garment industry of the southern Indian city of Bengaluru faces sexual violence. These women are in a particularly vulnerable position, where speaking out against issues of violence and harassment could cause them to lose their jobs with no recourse. And, with women making up the majority of the around 45 million-person garment industry workforce in India, these issues have become a persistent problem.
While India makes up a large part of the textile industry, it certainly isn’t the only region in the world facing issues with working conditions in the factories. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that some Cambodian factories (some of which make clothing for popular stores like H&M) employ teenagers as young as 15, though they are limited to the tasks that they are allowed to do until they are 18. Hopefully, the new measures in India will inspire change in other factories to protect young workers around the globe.