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80pc female RMG workers face workplace abuse

Published : 19 Feb 2020 08:34 PM | Updated : 04 Sep 2020 05:46 PM

Most of the females working in garment factories across the country are being harassed, humiliated and sexually abused in many ways under the very nose of the authorities concerned, according to a study. But the victims do not dare complain to their owners, high-ups and others concerned about such abuse and offences due to fear of losing job.

A recent study by ActionAid, an NGO working for women's rights, found that 80 percent of garment workers were sexually harassed at the factory. Another study by the same organisation showed that 84 percent of women and children in seven cities in Bangladesh heard abusive verbal comments in their daily life.

Rights activists and labour leaders have urged the authorities to enact a separate law for the prevention of sexual harassment at workplace. “Women workers in many factories could not open their mouths about sexual harassment. If they speak up maybe they will lose their job,” said National Garment Workers Employees League (NGWEL) President Sirajul Islam Roni said.

He said that in case of any victim dares speak up about the abuse, immediate steps are taken to bring the culprit to justice. “But in reality, they do not want to go ahead with legal fight in fear of losing job.” “This is a great crisis. Proper enforcement of the law is required in this regard,” Roni added.

While speaking at an event in the capital recently, Rehana Begum, a garment worker from Mirpur-13, explained an incident of torture by a male worker at the factory. “I experienced many incidents of abuse even before the eyes of my colleagues during my service at the factory since 2007. I did not even get justice," she said.

Asked to disclose the name of the factory, she said, "I won’t say the name of the factory. I have sons and daughters and family and I do not want to lose the job." Associate Professor Sayema Khatun of Jahangirnagar University said, “Though there are provisions for trial in a number of laws and procedures against sexual harassment, there should be a separate law in this regard.”

Shirin Akhter, as women rights activist, said, “Until the current condition of society is addressed, harassment and persecution against women will continue.” “For this reason, women of all occupations should join a united movement. Men have to be aware as well,” she added. Gender Advisor for Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) Banasree Mitra, said males need to change their mindset and stop torture and harassment of women. “If that change comes, an effective solution to the problem is possible.”

Nahida Anjum Kana, lead trainer and legal consultant at the Fair Wear Foundation, who works on the sexual harassment cell in various garment factories, suggested constitution of sexual harassment cell in every factory. "We’ve so far set up sexual harassment cell in seven factories. There will be more in the coming days," she said.