BGMEA chief doesn’t see sexual harassment at factories

Udisa Islam
Published : 07:30, Oct 17, 2019 | Updated : 09:34, Oct 17, 2019

Rubana Huq, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, speaks at the pre-budget media call in Dhaka on Monday (May 27). FILE PHOTOAs per a research document published in May 2019, 22.4 percent of women workers at readymade garment factories are victims of sexual abuse. But the president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers’ and Exporters’ Association (BGMEA) Rubana Huq says the opposite. She said: “Every factory which is a BGMEA member has a five-member sexual harassment prevention committee and therefore, factories do not see molestation anymore.”
On the other hand, labour leaders say that most factories do not have such committees. They have challenged the BGMEA president to show 100 factories which have sexual harassment prevention committees.
Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) carried out a survey of 22 factories in Mirpur in Dhaka, Pachlaish in Chattogram in May 2019 and in 2018, BLAST, Christian Aid, Naripakkha and SNV carried out joint surveys which found that 83 percent women workers face some form of sexual harassment from supervisors or managers.
As per the surveys, 22 percent women workers have said that they face psychological or physical torture and 66 percent said they do not seek redress because they feel justice won’t be forthcoming.
“We are touched inappropriately and hear suggestive comments every day,” said a woman worker.
Women work at a garment factory inside the Dhaka Export Processing Zone (DEPZ) in Savar. REUTERS FILE PHOTOBGMEA does not have the post of a gender specialist, said Rubana Huq.
“If we get information about sexual abuse in any factory then we will go into action,” said Rubana.
Terming Rubana’s statement of the non-existence of harassment incorrect, general secretary of Garment Worker Trade Union, Jolly Talukdar, said: “We get reports of sexual harassment almost daily. In some cases, the situation has improved compared to ten years ago but that was the achievement of the struggle by workers.”