Twenty-two per cent of female garment workers face physical, psychological and sexual harassment at workplace or on the way to/from the workplace, says a recent study.
But 67 per cent of them do not seek support of violence against women prevention committee at workplace for lack of trust in the prevention body, it finds.
Bangladesh Garment manufacturers and Exporters Association, however, said that harassment might have taken place in and outside the factories but the ratio of harassment in to the factories, it claimed, was negligible.
The study, conducted by Shojag (Awaken), a coalition of five non-governmental organisations, says 86 per cent of respondents mentioned male supervisors as the main perpetrators.
Seventy-six per cent of surveyed workers said that violence and harassment outside the factory was committed by stalkers, fellow workers and transport workers.
The baseline study, carried out between March and June this year among 382 female garment workers from Savar, Ashulia and Gazipur areas, was released on Monday at Daily Star Centre in the capital.
It was conducted under a project named ‘An Initiative to End Gender-based Violence in the Garments Industry’ Funded by Global Fund for Women.
Maheen Sultana, visiting fellow of BRAC Institute of Governance and Development, presented the study report while Shakeb Nabi, country director of Christian Aid, moderated the programme.
As per the report, 83 per cent respondents said that women in their areas experienced behaviour such as abusive verbal reprimand, groping while queuing for factory security check, unwanted touch by male colleagues, intimidation for attempted sexual relations in the workplace, corporal punishment in the workplace, sexual harassment in public and rape or attempted rape.
‘Workplace situation in the garment factories has improved and if any incident of harassment takes place in the work floor, the workers should inform authorities. Factory owners are now much more cautious about workers harassment in their factories,’ Faruq Hassan, senior vice-president of BGMEA, told New Age.
He also said that both the factory owners and the government agencies should be more vigilant as the study report found that female workers were harassed in garment factories and outside factories.
During the survey, 68 per cent respondents said that there was no effective VAW prevention committee currently operating in their workplace, or that they were unaware of such a committee in the factory.
The study also found that 59 per cent of the respondents received written appointment during their recruitment and 96 per cent of the total workers interviewed received identity cards.
The majority of respondents reported working in a factory which granted maternity leave with pay.
However, only 53.8 per cent reported that maternity leave allowances were given at their factory as per the ILO standard.
According to the study, 11 per cent of respondents reported that they felt insecure at workplace.
Motiur Rahman, deputy inspector general of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments, said that apart from paid maternity leaves, provisions of unpaid long-term leaves and less workload at workplaces should be included for women workers in the law.
He said that initiatives to establish commercial day-cares at communities should be taken.
Syeda Shaila Ashraf, corporate head of HR of Renaissance Group, said that if factory owners were aware no incident of harassment would take place in factories.
Mahbuba Akhter, deputy director (Advocacy and Communications) of BLAST, said most of the factories were not complying with High Court’s directive to make complaint committees in workplaces functional.