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FASHION REVOLUTION | FASHION TRANSPARENCY INDEX 2019

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MORE TRANSPARENCY CAN HELP THE GARMENT SECTOR TACKLE WORKPLACE VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT

HESTER LE ROUX SENIOR ECONOMIC ADVISOR – POLICY AND ADVOCACY CARE INTERNATIONAL UK

Millions of women experience violence and harassment at work. Not surprisingly, this takes an enormous physical, psychological and economic toll on the women concerned. It also costs businesses billions in lost productivity and associated costs. But a proposed new International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention, to be negotiated in June 2019, could help end violence and harassment in the world of work, creating protection for the most vulnerable workers. It is critical that businesses and brands urge their representative bodies to support the Convention. Violence and harassment of women in the workplace remains one of the most tolerated abuses of human and workers’ rights. It is an intractable injustice to

overcome as the reasons behind it are multiple and complex, stemming from deep-rooted issues not just in the workplace but also in laws and society at large: from unacceptable behaviours at work to the absence of legislation preventing them; from power imbalances deterring women from reporting violence to a lack of support when they do; from deeply entrenched social norms that normalise violence to the suppression of women’s voices to claim their rights. CARE’s recent research suggests that up to half of women garment workers in South East Asia have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Yet this issue is largely hidden – it is not talked about or reported; and certainly not picked up in a typical social audit. The general lack of

transparency that marks the garment sector is especially damaging when it comes to violence and harassment at work. Many employers simply do not regard abuse and harassment of female employees as a problem. The risk of violence and harassment is higher for women in informal and more precarious forms of work, like those typically found in the lower and subcontracted tiers of the supply chain. As this Transparency Index confirms, too little is known about who works in these furthest reaches of brands’ supply chains and the conditions they face. This extends to a failure to track and disclose incidents of violence and harassment. Current competitive sourcing practices also discourage transparency from suppliers, who worry that they would be penalised by their buyers if they report incidents. Tackling this complex issue requires action on several fronts: employers need to step up and implement effective systems for preventing and responding to violence and harassment at work; governments should legislate and implement systems for protection, reporting and support to survivors; and women need platforms to advocate for their rights.

“The general lack of transparency that marks the garment sector is especially damaging when it comes to violence and harassment at work.” This year, the ILO has a unique opportunity to adopt a new global Convention to end violence and harassment in the world of work. Any government that ratifies the proposed Convention will commit to enacting legislation requiring employers to take steps to prevent violence and harassment in the world of work, and to ensure that workers have access to safe, fair and effective reporting and dispute resolution mechanisms. A new global treaty could help raise the profile of this wide-spread problem, the extent of which has remained hidden for too long. It would also provide much-needed guidance both to governments and employers on effectively tackling it.

Profile for Fashion Revolution

Fashion Transparency Index 2019  

A review of 200 of the biggest global fashion brands and retailers ranked according to how much they disclose about their social and environ...

Fashion Transparency Index 2019  

A review of 200 of the biggest global fashion brands and retailers ranked according to how much they disclose about their social and environ...