The Exploitation of Women Workers: Unveiling Capitalism in Bangladeshi Garment Industries

The Exploitation of Women Workers: Unveiling Capitalism in Bangladeshi Garment Industries

Ishrat Zakia Sultana (York University, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0279-1.ch012


The recent series of man-made accidents in Bangladeshi garment industries are highly disturbing to the collective conscience of human beings. These accidents point not only to the poor construction of the factory buildings but also to the invisible tie between the insatiable need for cheap clothing on the part of western consumers and the unlimited greed of the local industry owners. Because most of the workers are economically desperate women and the industries are operated by a capitalist system that denies the rights of women, a systemic exploitation results. Drawing upon the recent tragic events of the deadliest industry disasters in Bangladesh, this paper examines how the industry owners perceive, and practice, ‘human rights'? It also investigates whether neo-colonial modernity is merely exploiting women while pretending to improve their economic conditions, and finally, to what extent female industry workers can overturn the vicious circle of exploitation to establish their rights.
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Three Lines Of Questioning

While defining rights, Nyamu-Musembi (2005) points out that “rights are shaped through actual struggles informed by people’s own understandings of what they are justly entitled to” (p. 31). In a capitalist system, because of the commodification of self, it is difficult for a worker to develop an understanding of his/her entitlements and struggle to achieve it. Unfortunately, in the debate of industry workers’ rights, very few of the literature take this perspective into account. Thus, the issue of humanity is rarely directly addressed.

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