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India: Unsafe workspace has resulted in lower female workforce participation

India_Women call for increased labour participation and safer workplaces_Credit_Reuters via The Wire

Despite its growing economy, India has one of lowest female labour force participation rates in the world. The factors contributing to this phenomenon are multi-faceted. Concerns of personal safety, security including fear of sexual harassment and oppressive social norms that restrict women’s mobility, do prevent women from seeking employment and confine her to primary caregiver roles. In the #MeToo era, stories about women’s harassment have become increasingly prevalent. This has also lead to companies being held accountable for the safety of women workers and to the demand to promote gender just and gender equality throughout their operations. 

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15 January 2019

India: The story of how women are subjected to violence in Indian factories

Author: Ewelina U. Ochab, Forbes

"The story of how women are subjected to violence in Indian factories", 2 January 2019

...In December 2018, HERrespect published new data on the extent of violence against women in Indian factories...The study surveyed 11,500 women and men working in the factories and their managers...The data highlight the challenges of gender-based violence and sexual harassment within Indian society...

[It] identifies several factors that drive violence against women whether at home or in the workplace. These include, “the dominant gender norms that reinforce the unequal relationship between women and men.”...[Another] factor is a “general acceptance of harassment and violence against women in the workplace” and the perception that “violence as the most accessible and effective way to achieve production targets.” These derive from and are driven by societal attitudes but also a fundamental lack of managerial skills...

The study...suggests that businesses can and must play a major role in changing these attitudes in relation to violence against women or towards sexual harassment. One way would be to ensure that businesses invest in adequate training for all workers and managers who might come into contact with issues of violence against women and sexual harassment. Businesses must also ensure that the managers they appoint have the necessary managerial skills or undergo such training to be able to conduct their work. Finally, businesses should ensure that they have adequate procedures in place to allow women who are subject to violence or sexual harassment at work to report this treatment without fear of reprisal so that it receives an adequate and timely response. Businesses can play an important role to combat gender.

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7 January 2019

India: To reverse decline of women in labour force, make working spaces safe

Author: Nishtha Satyam and Francine Pickup, The Wire, India

"To reverse decline of women in labour Force, India must make its working spaces safe", 2 December 2018

One in three women today...continue to experience violence and abuse...In the #MeToo era...we finally appear to be at a tipping point where women and girls around the world are calling out sexual harassment and other forms of violence...It is our responsibility to shift the narrative from the credibility of victims to the accountability of perpetrators...

...#MeToo is about women’s shrinking voice, choice and agency – and nowhere is this more evident than at the workplace, where concerns over personal safety and security have contributed to an alarmingly low – and declining – female labour force participation. At 27%, India has one of the lowest female labour force participation rates in the world...It would be reductive to attribute declining labour force participation to any single factor...Yet, given the reality of declining workforce participation by women, we can be certain that concerns about security and safety at the workplace, as well as experiences of harassment, weigh in the decision to seek or drop-off employment, once financial circumstances improve...

...Companies must take on the task of nurturing gender diversity in their ranks by providing infrastructure that would enable women’s participation in the workplace, such as hostels for working women and crèches for their children. They will need to ensure gender responsive human resource departments, procurement and marketing policies that provide flexible working arrangements, equal wages and targets for recruiting women at all levels...

A supportive and sensitive workplace with robust redressal mechanisms for sexual harassment can help complainants prevent cases of abuse in future – and perhaps even stop women from falling off the workforce. Safe working spaces are more than a social issue – they are a competitive advantage that could ensure India’s economic future.

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21 November 2018

India: Working class women share #MeToo stories of workplace sexual harassment

Author: Lekha Adavi, Indian Cultural Forum

“#MeToo: Working Class Women Share Their Stories of Harassment”, 5 November 2018

The #MeToo movement may have started recently, but it is not new to India…Every working-class woman…has a #MeToo story to share. Job insecurity, low wages — upon which her entire family is dependent, no social security benefits, and added to which are caste and class oppression. This silences women workers from speaking about their experiences of sexual harassment. 

…The women participating in [the #MeToo movement] to call out their perpetrators are owning the movement as theirs. This has displayed the exemplary solidarity of women fighting sexual harassment and exposing it for what it is. The movement has also demolished the lies around women when it comes to sexual harassment…It has showed us that sexual harassment is shockingly common and universal. It has also broken the myth that a woman loses her and her family’s honour if she is sexually harassed. Women are standing up against their perpetrators against great odds and risks to their personal safety, job security, and mental peace.

Despite the Vishakha Guidelines and the Prevention of Sexual Harassment and Redressal Act of 2013, working class women have been fighting for redressal and justice when it comes to sexual harassment at the workplace. There are areas of workplaces which are diverse, invisible and taut with class, caste and gender prejudices which do not allow the law to penetrate…

On the evening of November 03, 2018…a public programme called “#MeToo: Working Class Women Share” [was hosted] in Bangalore. Several women workers participated in the event and shared how the nature of their work and the work environments make it vulnerable to sexual harassment…


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