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Gap: Report of kids' sweatshop 'deeply disturbing'

  • Story Highlights
  • Clothes giant fires contractor at center of child labor allegations
  • Allegations include children as young as 10 working 16 hours a day for no pay
  • Boy, 10, tells British newspaper he was sold to a sweatshop by his parents
  • Gap: Garments allegedly produced by the children will not be sold in stores
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Clothing retailer Gap Inc. has fired an Indian company accused of using child labor to make clothes, the company's president said.

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Dan McDougall of the Observer said these were among the children working in an Indian factory, making clothing.

"It's deeply, deeply disturbing to all of us," Gap President Marka Hansen said Sunday after watching a video of children at work in a New Delhi, India, sweatshop.

"I feel violated and I feel very upset and angry with our vendor and the subcontractor who made this very, very, very unwise decision," Hansen said.

Hansen blamed the alleged abuse on an unauthorized subcontractor for one of its Indian vendors and said the subcontractor's relationship with the Gap had been "terminated."

She said the garments allegedly produced by the children represented a small portion of a single order placed with the vendor and that the clothes would not be sold in stores.

"We strictly prohibit the use of child labor," Hansen said in a statement. "Gap has a history of addressing challenges like this head-on, and our approach to this situation will be no exception.

"In 2006, Gap Inc. ceased business with 23 factories due to code violations. We have 90 people located around the world whose job is to ensure compliance with our Code of Vendor Conduct."

The report first appeared Sunday in Britain's Observer newspaper. Video Watch how children worked as virtual slaves »

The Observer spoke to children as young as 10 who said they were working 16 hours a day for no pay. The paper described the workplace as a "derelict industrial unit" where the hallways were flowing with excrement from a flooded toilet.

One 10-year-old boy told the paper he was sold to the company by his parents.

"'I was bought from my parents' village in [the northern state of] Bihar and taken to New Delhi by train," The Observer quoted the boy as saying. "The men came looking for us in July. They had loudspeakers in the back of a car and told my parents that, if they sent me to work in the city, they won't have to work in the farms. My father was paid a fee for me, and I was brought down with 40 other children."

Another boy, 12, said he worked from dawn until 1 a.m. and was so tired he felt sick, according to the paper. But if any of the children cried, he told The Observer, they would be hit with a rubber pipe or punished with an oily cloth stuffed in their mouths.

The children were producing hand-stitched blouses for the Christmas market in the United States and Europe at Gap Kids stores, according to the newspaper. The blouses were to carry a price of about $40, The Observer reported.

The Gap faced criticism for similar practices in 2000, when a BBC documentary uncovered young girls producing Gap products at a Cambodian factory. But since then, Hansen said, the company has developed comprehensive policies to prevent abuse and protect workers' rights. Hansen said violations of those policies are now "extremely rare."

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She said she does not support closing any factories in India in response to the allegations because it would deprive those working in proper conditions of their income.

The Gap also operates Banana Republic and Old Navy stores. It has 3,100 stores around the world. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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