Gap recalls shirts sewn by children in India

British paper reports children as young as 10 working in deplorable conditions

Tops sewn by children at a factory in India will not be sold in Gap stores, the clothing retailer has said.

After a story in the British newspaper the Observer reported a Gap supplier was using children as young as 10 to make shirts, the San Francisco-based retailer, which has 200 of its 2,000 suppliers in India, issued a recall of the shirts and launched an investigation.

The article stated the children were working 16 hours a day for no pay and that the workplace was a "derelict industrial unit" with an overflowing toilet.

Gap said work on the hand-stitched blouses, which were meant to be sold in GapKids stores in the United States and Europe, had been parceled out to an unauthorized subcontractor in violation of the company's policies

"Under absolutely no circumstance is it acceptable for children to produce or work on garments. It's a non-negotiable for us," said Gap's senior vice-president for social responsibility Dan Henkle in a statement.

“As soon as we were alerted to this situation, we stopped the work order and prevented the product from being sold in stores," said Marka Hansen, president of Gap North America, in a statement. "While violations of our strict prohibition on child labour in factories that produce product for the company are extremely rare, we have called an urgent meeting with our suppliers in the region to reinforce our policies.

Following the Observer report, activists and police raided a sweatshop in New Delhi down the street from where the Gap clothes were being made. They found 14 boys, the youngest of whom was 10, who came from a poor farming district and had never been paid for their work embroidering sequins on women's saris. The boys sometimes worked as long as 15-hour days.

Between 75 and 90 million children continue are part of the labour force in India, despite laws that prohibit children under the age of 14 from working in "hazardous" professions, which covers 13 occupations and 57 processes, including the garment, mining, hospitality and domestic sectors.

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