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Standing with the worker

  • Published at 12:02 am May 1st, 2019

Around 72% garment workers have experienced sexual harassment in one form or the other

Today is May Day, a day to remember the basic rights of working men and women, all over the world -- rights that include not just humane working hours and fair wages, but workplaces free from harassment.

There is no way of denying it -- sexual harassment of employees is a serious problem in workplaces in Bangladesh; and in this country, most businesses and organizations are yet to take significant steps towards combatting this plague.. 

Quite often, if a victim reports her harasser, it is often she who is stigmatized and further harassed by the higher-ups, making her situation even worse. 

In the past weeks, the country received a rude wake-up call. We have all seen how the system was ready to crush Nusrat -- a brave soul who had dared to report her predicament -- under its feet. Hundreds of women in high profile organizations have not gotten justice when they reported their harassers, and have had to resort to using social media to get attention.

It can hardly be denied that the situation is grim for RMG -- the largest female workforce in the country.

The women who are driving our economy forward are the most vulnerable to sexual harassment, and are doubly victimized due to the complete indifference of the authorities. 

A recent study reveals horrifying details -- around 72% garment workers have experienced sexual harassment in one form or the other. Even more disappointing is the fact that only 4% garment factories have anti-harassment committees. 

The recent hunger strike of 17 ex-garment workers at Savar proves that our current mechanisms for dealing with sexual harassment in the RMG workforce are woefully inadequate.

There is no excuse for inaction on the matter -- it is time for employers, industry leaders, and policy-makers to re-evaluate harassment policies in place. 

To ensure that the complaints are heard and addressed, an appropriate representation of women workers in these committees is crucial.