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Was there forced labour at Dutch youth institution De Goede Herder?

The civil lawsuit against the Congregation of 'Onze Lieve Vrouw van Liefde van de Goede Herder' starts this week. A total of 19 women, aged from 62 to 91, together with the women’s rights foundation Clara Wichmann wants recognition through the courts that there was a situation of forced labour at youth institution De Goede Herder.

The women are challenging the nuns of De Goede Herder in court proceedings because as vulnerable adolescents they had to carry out ‘forced labour’ in sewing workshops, and laundry and ironing rooms. 'The convent was a factory, and we were a business model’, says one of the women. According to lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld: ‘These women are entitled to unpaid wages.’ The Congregation, however, claims the use of child labour was mainly intended as therapy.

Previously, a report by the De Winter Committee, on abuse within the Dutch youth care system, failed to provide a clear answer which led to demands for further research. In late 2019, Guus Heerma van Voss (Professor of Labour Law in Leiden) and Mijke Houwerzijl (Professor of Labour Law in Tilburg) published their report with the main conclusion: ‘The work performed in the institutions of De Goede Herder falls under the internationally accepted definition of forced labour.’  

Full article (in Dutch) in Volkskrant
2019 Report (in Dutch) written by Guus Heerma van Voss and Mijke Houwerzijl

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