Sexual harassment is a reality in garment factories: Human Rights Watch

  •  India
  •  Apr 09, 2019
  •  By WFB Bureau
Sexual harassment is a reality in garment factories: Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has a made a shocking revelation in its latest report ‘Combating Sexual Harassment in the Garment Industry’. The report has confirmed the rampant presence of sexual harassment cases in garment factories in India, Pakistan, Cambodia and Bangladesh.

These countries account for the bulk of the garment production ordered by fashion retailers and buyers. Millions of workers, mostly women, work in these garment and footwear factories globally and face sexual harassment in form of verbal abuse, sexualised threats, and more.

The report also documents various harassment issues faced by female workers working in garment factories in these countries.

Another shocking fact revealed in the Human Rights Watch report is that 59 countries do not have any specific legal remedies for sexual harassment at work. Although India, Pakistan and many other countries at least have specific laws governing sexual harassment at work, workers are not aware of these laws or are scared of retaliations if they complain.

A global campaign is underway to develop a new international standard that will help prevent and respond to harassment and violence at work. Unions and rights groups representing ordinary workers from different sectors, including factory workers, teachers, health workers, and those engaged in domestic work, have been advocating for a new binding International Labour Organization convention, accompanied by a recommendation, to address violence and harassment at work.

Fashion brands rely on social audits to monitor conditions in factories but these are not equipped to address sexual harassment because of certain limitations such as process not victim-friendly, does not guarantee a safe environment, no meaningful discussion of sexual harassment at workplace, etc.

HRW Recommendations to Global Apparel and Footwear Companies

• Publicly support the drive towards a binding ILO convention to tackle violence and harassment at work.

• Publish the company’s global factory lists in accordance with the Transparency Pledge.

• Design brand-level grievance redress mechanisms with the participation of workers, unions, and labor advocates.

• Carry out periodic studies to examine gender-based violence and harassment at work in every production country.

• Brands should ask and map out as part of sourcing and compliance information.

• Take steps to examine and redress brands’ purchasing practices to prevent and mitigate risks of abusive practices in the supply chain. 

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