Palm Oil Business
Palm oil is a huge business.
The global palm oil market was worth around $ 43 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $ 57 billion in 2026.
Indonesia is the largest producer followed by Malaysia.
Both countries represent approximately 85% of the world production.
Palm Oil plantations are a calamity for the environment as they involve deforestation, intensive agriculture and many other environmental crimes.
It’s a filthy industry but we need palm oil to maintain our western lifestyle; so let’s not be hypocrite about it: we consume and produce more and more palm oil and it’s not going to stop soon.
Let’s put the environmental impact aside as there’s an even dirtier secret linked to palm oil plantation: human rights abuses.
Human Rights Abuses
Women are the most important victims of the palm oil industry.
The most important crimes are rapes and sexual abuses that take place on the plantations.
Let me summarise what happens:
Immigrant and refugee women (from India for instance) came to Indonesia or Malaysia with the hope to find work and a better live.
Their daughters and grand daughters will be born, raised and employed on the same plantations.
Women have no other perspective in life than to work on the same palm oil plantations than their mothers and grand mothers.
The plantations owners own those women from their birth.
Women will be poorly or not educated so that they can be exploited and abused more easily.
Most of those women, generation after generation, have no other professional perspective than to stay on the plantations.
Girls who are unlucky will be raped before they’re 15 years old, girls who are lucky (so to speak) will be raped when they’re 15 years or older.
Many women will be raped many times over their lifespan.
When they’re raped for the first time, they don’t realise what happened to them.
However, this is not completely true as their mothers and grand mothers have warned them that it would happen.
They’re usually told that it’s part of their work and that they should accept it just like they did before them.
Many of those girls will become pregnant after being raped.
Very few victims, if any, will file a complaint because:
- It’s a stigma and trauma;
- there’s no structure to help the victims; and more importantly
- they’re afraid of the consequences for speaking out.
There’s a heavy price to pay if they speak out.
The girl and the family will be harassed by the plantation manager or owner, or they will be kicked out sending them straight into poverty and misery.
Over time, mothers have learned a few tricks to reduce the risk for their daughters of being raped.
They make their daughters look less attractive by cutting their hair, hide their curves and wear old clothes.
The “ageing” factor is their most important ally against those abuses: older women become less attractive.
Some of the girls will play the game and expect to receive “things” (money, food, objects) in exchange of sexual favours.
Good looking girls will be raped many times.
Many will become pregnant.
They will still have to work while being pregnant.
Many of these women will miscarry and loose their babies because they worked to hard.
They have no other options … it’s their lives.
Rape Free palm Oil
Instead of greenwashing the palm oil industry with fake solutions, why don’t the biggest companies make a pledge to make the Palm Oil industry “Rape free”?
I think it could take between 6 to 12 month to develop and implement a sustainable solution to stop sexual abuses on palm oil plantations completely.
Natural Born Killers
Let me finish this article by telling you another story that I was told 20 years ago by the mother of one of my friends.
She was single and dating an important palm oil plantation owner … I cant’ remember if it was Indonesia or Malaysia.
She visited him and stayed at his place in the biggest house on the estate. One day, she was walking alone in the plantation villages and a young man (probably aged around 17 years old) stole her hand bag.
The boy must have thought that she was a regular tourist.
When she complained to her friend, the plantation owner, he started a man hunt.
Later on the day, they found the boy. She accompanied her friend to retrieve the bag and confront the thief.
When they arrived at the place where the boy was held, she received her bag back.
And then, the plantation owner pulled out a gun and shot the boy right between the eyes.
The boy was executed in the middle of the village without any fair trial.
This is the type of mentality that we’re dealing with.