Bangladesh women still face hurdle

HC asks govt to set up corners at all  factories

M Moneruzzaman | Published: 23:48, Feb 18,2020 | Updated: 00:07, Feb 19,2020


The High Court Division on Tuesday directed the government to ensure setting up breastfeeding and baby care corners at all the mills and factories across the country. 

The court also directed the labour and employment ministry secretary and the director general of the Department of Labour to submit a report on compliances in two months.

On October 27, 2019, the court asked the secretary of the women and children affairs ministry to explain in four weeks why breastfeeding corners and baby care corners would not be set up at all workplaces, shopping malls, airports, bus stops and railway stations across the country while hearing another writ petition filed by Supreme Court lawyer Ishrat Hasan.

Ishrat told New Age on Tuesday that most government and non-government offices hardly ensured breastfeeding facilities and ran day-care centres, causing malnutrition in children and depriving them of their rights.

She said that all mills and factories were legally bound to set up baby corners and breastfeeding units for working mothers under the labour law.

Ishrat, also a rights activist, said that but none of the industries provided any space for baby corners and breastfeeding units at their factories although most of their employees were teenage female and they had to work with their babies.

 A bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Md Mostafizur Rahman is sued the directive for setting up breastfeeding and baby care corners after hearing a supplementary writ petition Ishrat filed.

The court in the previous rule had also asked the government and the ministry to explain why their failure to set up breastfeeding and baby care corners at the workplaces, private shopping malls and other public places would not be declared illegal.

Secretaries of the Cabinet Division, women and children affairs ministry, social welfare ministry, health ministry, civil aviation ministry and the civil aviation chairman were also asked to reply to the rule in four weeks.

Ishrat Hasan on Tuesday said that six rail stations had set up breastfeeding corners and a process was under way in 14 other stations for the purpose after the High Court rule was issued in October last.  

She said that the launch terminals at Sadarghat and Narayanganj also established baby corners and breastfeeding units.  

The Dhaka Passport Office and the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in the capital, too, set up baby corners and breastfeeding units following the HC rule, she added. 

Ishrat’s lawyer Abdul Halim submitted that she filed the writ petition after being aggrieved as she could not breastfeed her nine-month-old baby during her five-hour wait at the Cox’s Bazar Airport terminal for catching a flight as there was no breastfeeding corner there.

Halim further submitted that mothers felt uncomfortable to breastfeed their children at the workplaces, shopping malls, airports, bus terminals and rail stations where no specific corners existed for breastfeeding and baby care.

Child right activists told New Age that successive governments celebrated women’s inclusion into the formal economy but did not ensure a congenial working environment for women.

They said that maternity benefits were legally acknowledged but not systematically implemented in all sectors.

Child care facilities barely exist, they noted.

They said that in most formal sectors pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, a part of the labour force, were seen as an economic burden.

In the apparel sector, there is a legal provision for women workers to enjoy 16 weeks of maternity leave.

However, in practice, factory managements often deprive them of their legally entitled benefits, the activists said.

According to a 2018 study, only 28.7 per cent of the workers get maternity leave for four months, which also found that the authorities dilly-dallied in paying salary to them during the leave, a violation of the labour law.

There are reported instances from the industrial sector in which factory managements fired pregnant workers to avoid paying the maternity benefits.

Usually, child care centres are there as mere decorative and non-functional entities, which are only used to show compliances to the factory inspection department or the global buyers.

The rights activists further said that the implementation of the long-standing demand for child care centres at workplaces should now be a priority policy concern.

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