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Major Progress in Jordan! Accused Rapist Flees, Public Pressure Forces Investigation

change.org |  By Amanda Kloer  | August, 31 2011 |  Share  | Source Article

Last month the Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights launched a campaign on Change.org asking Target, Macy's, Hanes, and other major brands to pull their orders from Classic Factory in Jordan, where managers were accused of regularly raping workers. Now, after nearly 140,000 people have signed the petition, the head manager has fled the country and the public pressure of the campaign has challenged a would-be cover-up of the rampant sexual abuse at Classic. Will you keep up the progress on this campaign by signing and sharing the petition?

When the IGLHR first launched this campaign, Anil Santha -- the factory manager accused of busing young female workers to his house on the weekends and raping them -- was working a cushy job and looking at a rape trial that would be, at best, a minor inconvenience in his day. Now, reports from Jordanian workers have confirmed that Santha has fled Jordan for his native Sri Lanka, likely because the increased public pressure on Classic means his trial might now result in life in prison for multiple rapes. His flight was assisted by the Jordanian Ministry of Labor, a strong indication that they are aware of the abuse in Classic Factory and are working to keep it quiet. While his exile is not as strong an outcome as justice, he is removed from a position of authority over hundreds of vulnerable young women.

Another point of progress is that the increased public scrutiny has thwarted a cover-up of the serial rapes via a report by the Jordanian government and Better Work Jordan, a monitoring organization affiliated with both the Jordanian and U.S. governments. When IGLHR launched their Change.org campaign, a report stating that there had been no instances of rape or sexual assault at Classic was imminently forthcoming. That conclusion was reached through dubious means, including the Jordanian government using male agents with deportation authority to interview female guestworker rape victims. Unsurprisingly, none of the victims complained under threat of deportation and firing. However, public pressure has so far kept the cover-up under wraps, as more and more people demand a real investigation. Working conditions have also improved considerably as the eyes of the world focus on Jordan.

However, a dark cloud remains as Target, Hanes, Macy's, Walmart, Sears, Land's End, and Khols continue to do business with Classic and refuse to pull their orders until working conditions improve, victims are free to speak about their experiences without duress, and the men accused of raping female workers are given meaningful trials. When human rights abuses continue to be perpetrated in the name of the clothing they sell, the silence from these brands is deafening.

The case of Classic is an important one not just because it affects the lives of hundreds of workers who are facing severe abuse, but because it questions the wisdom behind the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement, and giving such favorable trading terms to a country where corruption is so widespread the government will help secret an accused serial rapist safely home and work to cover-up widespread sexual assualt when they think no one's looking.

Fortunately, 140,000 of you are looking. Will you help keep your eyes on Classic by signing and sharing this petition with your friends?