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AFP
May 26, 2018

Daily violence, sex abuse in Asian suppliers factories

World

AFP
May 26, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR/LONDON: Women who work in Asian factories making clothes for a global retail giant are at “daily risk” of slapping, sexual abuse and other harassment, rights groups said on Friday.

Based on interviews with about 250 workers in 60 supplier factories in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Indonesia, a coalition of charities said women were “systematically exposed to violence” and faced retaliation if they reported the attacks.

The coalition has investigated the factories for more than six years as efforts mount to push Western brands into cleaning up the workplace and improving safety along their supply chains. US-based Walmart, with at least 11,000 stores in nearly 30 nations, said it was reviewing the findings of the report. “The accounts by workers is concerning, and we take allegations like this seriously,” a Walmart spokeswoman said.

“We have a robust supply chain monitoring program. Walmart´s Standards for Suppliers lists our social and environmental expectations for our suppliers, specifically addressing the cultivation of a safe and healthy work environment,” she added.

The charities said they found widespread sex harassment, verbal and physical abuse such as slapping and threats of retaliation when women refused sexual advances from bosses. “This is a very urgent and serious issue,” Anannya Bhattacharjee of the Asia Floor Wage Alliance, a group which represents garment workers, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“All people see are the glittering, fast-moving and affordable fashion. No one has any ideas about the deep-rooted violence against women that is propagated in the supply chains.”The alliance, which probed the abuses with four other groups, said in a 43-page report that the incidents represented the tip of the iceberg. Stigma and the risk of retaliation means that many women keep quiet, according to the rights groups.

“The difficulty is women don´t feel comfortable to report. How can they seek intervention from the unions when the union leaders are mostly men?” said Khun Tharo from the Phnom Penh-based charity Center for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights.

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