1 in 7 women in Bengaluru garment industry faced sexual violence in the workplace: Women in Black protest on International Working Women’s Day
On 7 March, garment workers from Peenya Industrial Area came together to stand up against sexual violence in the workplace, to mark International Working Women’s Day. Women wore black and silently protested, in line with the global Women in Black anti-war women’s movement that began in the 1950s in Palestine and Israel.
The programme started out with a street theatre performance on reporting sexual violence, and the stigma surrounding it. Women from the Garment Labour Union interacted with women factory workers, and focused on raising awareness around sexual harassment at the workplace, and shared results from a study conducted in 2015 that focused on sexual violence faced by garment workers.
According to the study, conducted by Munnade in partnership with Sisters for Change, UK, over 60% of women have been intimidated or threatened with violence, while about 40-50% has experienced verbal abuse. 1 in 7 women have either been forced to commit a sexual act or have been forced to have sexual intercourse.
“We are here today to demand that the government has to take more accountability to ensure that the laws against sexual harassment at the workplace are properly enforced. Companies need to have much more transparency in the way they form Internal Complaints Committee, which is mandated under law. Workers don’t have any awareness about the existence of ICCs – companies need to create more awareness,” said Rukmini, President of the Garment Labour Union.
Saroja, also a member of the Union, and its General Secretary said, “Companies continuously say that they get no complaints of sexual harassment. Does this mean that women don’t face it? Absolutely not! We know so many women who are not able to speak up about the harassment they face because of stigma and discrimination from the community and even from their homes. They have very little awareness about their rights”
On 9th March, the Garment Labour Union also organised a cultural evening with workers to sensitise more women, and to celebrate Women’s Day.
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