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Commentary: From contention to critical engagement on women's rights in business

Author: Srilatha Batliwala, Association for Women’s Rights in Development, IHRB (UK), Published on: 8 March 2017

“A Contentious Connection - Business and Women’s Rights”, 8 Mar 2017

[M]assive feminisation of the labour force in a growing number of industries…over the past four decades...has meant erosions in…labour rights and protections for women workers…because they are “too expensive”...Women workers are provided limited or no employment security, poor wages and benefits, and equal pay for equal work is an exception not the rule…Most companies that feminised their workforces…paid little or no attention, much less responded to, the increased violence or exploitation women workers faced from unemployed male partners, sexual harassment and “sextortion” at the workplace, or even basic physiological needs like more toilet breaks for menstrual hygiene…It is unfortunate..this damning record has submerged...the efforts of the more enlightened sections of...business...to right the historical wrongs not only against women, but other groups and identities stigmatised and excluded…[B]usiness can make a huge difference, and…some in the business sector see that not only as a possibility, but a central responsibility…[How do] we…move this contentious relationship…towards…critical engagement? What would women’s rights advocates say to business leaders, if they were to agree to a constructive dialogue?

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