Primark’s Pride collection is made in countries where it’s illegal to be gay
Primark’s Pride merchandise range is being made in countries where gay people face violence and persecution.
The discount clothing chain this week announced that it will start selling Pride-themed clothing at a select number of stores across the UK, Europe and US to celebrate Pride events.
The range of rainbow-themed t-shirts, caps and accessories were produced as part of a partnership with LGBT charity Stonewall, which will receive 20 percent of the proceeds.
However both organisations are now facing questions – after admitting the clothes are being made in places where it’s illegal to be gay.
A spokesperson for Primark confirmed that the products are “manufactured in China, Turkey and Myanmar… in accordance with internationally recognised standards.”
All three countries have an abysmal record on LGBT rights.
Gay people in Turkey are routinely subjected to violence and persecution, with human rights groups condemning shocking scenes of police brutality against the LGBT community in the country.
At last year’s Istanbul Pride event, police used rubber bullets and dogs to disperse crowds of LGBT activists who had defied an official ban to march at the event.
Homosexuality is still technically illegal in Myanmar, with punishments ranging from ten years to life in prison.
Meanwhile China has engaged on a crusade of censorship against the LGBT community, as well as attempting to clamp down on depictions of LGBT people in public life.
In the past year Chinese internet censors have begun to enforce a ban on “abnormal sexual behaviour”, while social networking companies in the country have attempted to clamp down on LGBT people online.
Stonewall defended its partnership with Primark.
In a statement it said: “When Primark decided to launch a summer Pride range we were proud and pleased that they approached us about a partnership. They want to work with us to help embed long-term, generational change for LGBT people in the UK and internationally.
“This funding will help us run programmes that empower LGBT young people and marginalised groups within the community.”
It added: “This partnership with Primark will also support our international programmes, which over the past 12 months have supported nearly 100 activists from across Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Caucasus and South Africa.
“We deliberately work with a wide variety of organisations, in countries across the world, to ensure that positive change can be a reality for every lesbian, gay, bi and trans person.
“Through our Global Diversity Champions programme – of which Primark is a member – we work with organisations that operate in extremely difficult contexts.
“We give these organisations the tools to create workplaces that, despite the legislative landscape, are inclusive and supportive of LGBT people and LGBT equality. And through our Global Workplace Briefings, we connect them with local LGBT groups on the ground, wherever possible.”
The UK Pride Organisers Network had previously slammed the deal.
It said: “The Network was disappointed to see that proceeds [are] not being donated to the Pride organisations that organise these events.
“Instead, it is being given to Stonewall who, whilst they attend some Prides, do not organise the events themselves.
“All Pride organisations are voluntary bodies that struggle every year to raise the funds necessary to hold these major public events, most of which are free to attend. In the last week, in one city where Primark will be selling these products, the Pride has announced it is scaling back its event due to a lack of funds. This is a daily reality for most Pride organisers.
“Stonewall have been critical of Prides in the past, and this is an insult to those Prides who sell their own merchandise to raise funds for their events.
“We urge everyone who wants to support their local Pride to do so by purchasing merchandise from them, or from stall holders at the event.”
But Stonewall said: “We are extremely proud of our partnership with Primark and we know this doesn’t take away the need for more funding for Prides and other community-based LGBT organisations who are integral to our fight for equality.
“That’s why we will continue to work, alongside employers and organisations, to support the work of local and community LGBT groups.
“We are extremely excited to attend more community Pride events this year than we ever have before. We’re looking forward to celebrating our diverse LGBT communities and talking to thousands of LGBT people around Britain this summer.”
Stonewall added: “This year we’re hosting six Youth Pride events, open to anyone aged 16-21, at Prides including Birmingham Pride, UK Black Pride, Bristol Pride, Cardiff Pride and Manchester.”
It also noted: “This partnership also enables us to empower LGBT people to create change in their communities. For example, this summer we’re hosting a workshop in Manchester, and one with trans community leaders, to help us work together on improving LGBT equality.”
Stonewall publicly cut ties with Pride in London earlier this year after a reported fall-out between the charity and organisers.
The charity will boycott the capital’s Pride march on July 7. It is believed to be the first time in decades that Stonewall has not had any presence at the event.