More than 70 women are accusing British tea makers, including the famous Lipton brand, of sexual abuse. According to a BBC investigation, the violence was committed against more than 70 plantation workers in Kenya.

"More than 70 women on Kenyan tea plantations owned for years by two British companies told the BBC they had been sexually abused by their superiors," the British channel reported on its website.

Sexual blackmail

The plantations singled out belong to Lipton Teas and Infusion, which was recently a subsidiary of British food and hygiene products giant Unilever, as well as his compatriot James Finlay, a subsidiary of the Swire conglomerate.

According to testimonies collected by the BBC, several victims said they had no choice but to give in to the sexual demands of their bosses to get or keep their jobs. One of them says she has been infected with HIV. A journalist from the channel, who posed as a potential employee on farms owned by both companies, was herself pressured to consent to sex in exchange for work.

Immediate suspension of both managers

Unilever, whose Kenya operations were sold during filming, said it was "deeply shocked by the allegations of the BBC programme", in a statement sent to AFP. "We have worked hard for many years to address the very serious issues of sexual and gender-based violence against women in the tea industry," the group continued, saying it was "very disappointed" that this was not enough to prevent the reported abuses.

The new owner, Lipton Teas and Infusions, claims to have "immediately suspended the two managers" implicated in the report and ordered a "full and independent investigation", according to comments reported by the BBC.

Initiation of an investigation

The James Finlay company told the station that it had suspended and reported one of its officials to the police and opened an investigation to determine whether its operations in Kenya suffered from an "endemic problem of sexual violence". Contacted by AFP, Lipton Teas and Infusions and James Finlay did not immediately respond.

Unilever completed in July the sale for 4.5 billion euros of its teas division, which includes 34 brands including Lipton, Tazo and Pukka, to CVC Capital Partners. This entity has since changed its name to Lipton Teas and Infusions.

  • Society
  • Sexual violence
  • Kenya