FWF Guidance for Members on Sumangali 2015

FWF Guidance for Members on Sumangali 2015

The Sumangali Scheme, a form of forced labour in India, is said to have begun two decades ago. The word “Sumangali” in Tamil refers to a happy and content married woman. In a traditional Hindu arranged marriage, it is a practice for the bride’s parents to provide the groom’s family a substantial dowry (illegal by law since 1961), and to bear the expenses of the wedding. If they don’t meet the expectations of the groom’s family, the bride may be subjected to ill-treatment in her marital home.

This is why the Sumangali Scheme is also known as the “marriage assistance system”. Spinning mills employ agents who use the vulnerability of poor families from lower castes, tempting them with a lump sum payment at the end of three years to be used by the parents for their daughter’s wedding. Ostensibly, this system meets the needs of poor families and provides stable workforce to factories in Tamil Nadu (Coimbatore region). Girls aged 14 to 20 are lured by misleading advertisements by “voluntary” consent to work in factories. Once the contract is signed, young girls are under the control of the factory or the agent. They know very little about the hardships of working in spinning mills when they enter the factory.

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