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Luxury lingerie cotton ‘picked by child slaves’

The luxury lingerie line, Victoria's Secret is facing claims that it uses cotton farmed by children as young as ten.

Investigators from Bloomberg News Agency claimed to have discovered working under appalling conditions, producing cotton for the million dollar brand.

They said they’d found child had sneaked off to go to lessons at a school close by, but an older cousin, the farmer for whom she is forced to who was forcing her to work dragged her home  and told her not to attend lessons.

"We are very concerned," said Victoria’s Secret’s parent company Limited Brands stressing that the cotton from Burkina Faso in west Africa, is "used in a small portion of our Victoria's Secret panty styles."

"If this allegation is true, it describes behaviour that is contrary to our company's values and sourcing standards that we require all of our suppliers to meet," the firm said in a statement. "These standards expressly prohibit child labor."

The Ohio-based company said it had already started to fully investigate the allegations. And it said that “depending on the findings, we are prepared to take swift action to prevent the illegal use of child labour in the fields where we source Fairtrade-certified organic cotton in Burkina Faso."

The researchers spent longer than six weeks interviewing child workers, their families, neighbours and village elders. One of them is Clarisse Kambiré. This year the 13 year old helped dig by hand more than 500 rows of cotton because the farmer she works for can’t afford an ox and plough. She then had to help with the harvest, the farmer whipping her with a branch if she slowed down.

This is Clarisse’s second harvest. Cotton from her first went onto trucks for Burkina Faso's fair-trade program, the report said.  And its fibre went to factories in India and Sri Lanka, where it was fashioned into Victoria's Secret underwear.

Cotton is made with forced or child work in more countries than any other product apart from gold, according to the US Department of Labor. Both forced labour and child labour are endemic on African farms. Many of the children forced to work in Burkina Faso are related to the farmers. Locals call them enfants confinés - a French name for foster children. Researchers found that 57 per cent of the 89 small farm producers they looked at at least one foster child.

Hayley attribution