A number of studies in recent years have reported disturbingly high levels of violence against women in the workplace. An estimated 35% of women worldwide fall victim to direct violence at the workplace, and of these, between 40% and 50% are subjected to unwanted sexual advances, physical contact, or other forms of sexual harassment. A recent study on the working and living conditions of garment workers in Cambodia reported high levels of discrimination, harassment, and sexual abuse in the factories and another recent report reveals widespread sexual abuse suffered by garment workers in Karnataka, India. However, there is a lack of systematic evidence and understanding about the extent and practices of violence and the links of workplace violence with women’s weak bargaining position at home.
This research project explores these links to inform policies, interventions, and social dialogue at the community, enterprise, sector, and/or national level. It focuses on workplace violence against women workers in the garment sector in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, and Indonesia. It will involve interviewing women workers using an ethical protocol developed to deal with sensitive matters, secondary data analysis, and identifying policy and legal interventions required to address violence at the workplace. Using this data, the project will provide capacity development workshops and training for women workers. The project will also engage in dialogue and negotiations with employers and relevant stakeholders to overcome and prevent violence. This research will also inform discussions at the international level towards a binding convention against gender violence in the workplace and various communications products, such as policy briefs, op-eds and articles, a documentary film, country studies, and a comprehensive legal paper that will contribute to general awareness.
The project will be led by an Asian consortium of women’s and labour rights researchers and organizations through a collaborative regional process across the four countries supported by an advisory group of academic, legal, and policy specialists. They include the Bangladesh Nari Progati Sangha (BNPS) and Nagorik Uddyog, also in Bangladesh, the Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (CENTRAL) in Cambodia; Aakar in India; and the Sedane Labour Resource Centre/Lembaga Informasi Perburuhan Sedane (LIPS) in Indonesia, which will also coordinate the project.