Violence against women garment workers, gender subordination in India


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Violence against women garment workers is rooted in gender subordination. This presentation brings out the salient facets of the the inter-connectedness of the multi-level of violence faced by women garment workers in Bangalore, India and offers some suggestions as to what can be done.

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Violence against women garment workers, gender subordination in India

  1. 1. Violence against women workers rooted in gender subordination Anita Cheria 11 October 2013
  2. 2. Violence against women workers rooted in gender subordination  Be it religious institutions, sportspersons, scientific     establishments, defence personal, industrial workers or domestic workers… violence against women rooted in gender subordination is rampant. When the work place hierarchy reinforces gender subordination the violence is more severe, consistent, continuous and at times heinous. Multiple vulnerabilities always reinforce subordination and violence… age, caste, patriarchal biases being particularly severe in the Indian context, in addition to class. A skewed production line and salary structure are added on top of this exploitative structure, further intensifying it. How the factory labour is valued, how the other services in the supply chain are valued or devalued, all reinforce the exploitation of women working in the spinning and garment factories.
  3. 3. India’s apparel industry: salient features  Some critical factors relevant for today’s discussion (Nothing new).  India’s domestic apparel market is estimated at Rs. 2,000 billion  The unorganised sector accounts for more than half of the market  India’s apparel industry is expecting to grow to Rs. 4,000 billion by 2018.
  4. 4. Workers in the garment sector in Bangalore  90% of floor workers are women.  With little or no family/social support.  With little or no property to their name.  90% percent of the women are migrants, coming to the city out of distress.  Most of them oppressed/single or women headed families with them as the sole breadwinner.
  5. 5. Multi-layered violence As women workers they face violence as  Women.  Workers.  Women workers rooted in gender subordination. This arises from and manifests as being  The least paid.  Not represented by a union.  Part of a globalised production chain (where rights violation can be distanced and hidden as good business practice).  A migrant. And is compounded by  Violence related to gender assertion.  Social pressure and patriarchal families.
  6. 6. The whos and the hows….  Does the factory do all this to the women? No!  What it does is ensure the women remain that way… and intensifies it with precision and the latest management and technological tools… like the ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’.  How does the garment factory do that?  How do the rest of us ensure it?  How can be help break this cycle of oppression?
  7. 7. Salary  The maximum wage is as close to the legal minimum wage as possible.  According to a recent report based on Consumer Price Index (CPI), Bangalore, a major hub for export of premium garments from India, is also the costliest city to live in.  A person working under the Central Government’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in Karnataka’s rural areas is entitled to a wage of Rs. 150 per day.  A person working in the apparel industry in Bangalore receives only Rs. 22 more for a day’s work.
  8. 8. The factory situation(practise and policy)          Stress. 10-12 hours of work. Repetitive work, most often in one position with no break. A management that tracks them by the second. A workplace where toilet breaks are timed, recorded and tracked. A five minute delay in reporting in the mornings for two days, half day salary is cut. The 14 days of stipulated leave is not easy to take. There is an attendance bonus of Rs 200-600 if you don’t take any leave. While the world talks of work life balance that does not seem to apply here.
  9. 9. Disposable human machines…  The sector works with an assumption that it workers are disposable and dispensable.  Their survival, health and dignity are not worth investing in.  No job security, no concern for human factors and ergonomics. ‘Every hour they keep asking how much we have produced. If the production is not sufficient in their view, they announce our names on the mikes. They abuse us in foul language, “Have you come here to die, woman?” they ask.’ ~ Rukmini V. P., Garment Workers’ Union Leader.
  10. 10. The built in bias in the salary structure  Floor workers—cutters, tailors, packers—earn an     average of Rs 3,500-5,500 /month. The supervisors and managers earn anything from Rs 50,000 to 3,00,000. The difference is 10 to 60 times more. Minimum wage for the industry is the consolidated wage. Basic pay is almost always below minimum wage.
  11. 11. Built in bias in the staff structure  Women as % of shop floor workers: 90%.  Women as % of supervisors: 3—5%.  Women as % of production managers: NIL.  Women as % of manufacturers: NIL.
  12. 12. Partnerships  The Government of Karnataka has the ‘Suvarna Vastra Policy 2008—2013’  One objective is to improve the income levels of workers dependent on this industry.  Five years have gone by and workers have had no experience of this concern.  Every government announces new textile policy with attractive incentives to textile industries and to make the sector globally competitive, but no emphasis to support the over five lakh women who support this sector.  The new policy speaks of textile parks which have similar perks as SEZs and EPZs which have the dubious distinction of compromising on labour rights.
  13. 13. Everyone is complicit…  The government supports the industry.  The industry supports the economy.  The manufacturers support each other.  The consumers don’t seem to complain.
  14. 14. The right to unionise… but only for the manufacturers (a)  The apparel industry association is The Clothing Manufacturers Association of India (CMAI).  It collaborates with the government in matters of policy, Sales Tax, Octroi, Entry Tax, VAT, export policy & procedures.  CMAI president Rahul Mehta said India will be able to achieve apparel export worth US$ 17 billion this fiscal year (registering a 15 percent growth in the first two months of financial year 2013-14 compared to the corresponding period of last fiscal.
  15. 15. The right to unionise… but only for the manufacturers (b)  The right of factory workers to organise and collectively bargain through unions is denied.  Anyone taking an initiative on those lines is either discouraged, eased out, shifted, shunted or even paid to stay out of the factory… as in the case of Rukmini.  Getting together to unionise for their rights is a far-fetched dream for these women as raising a voice against physical, verbal or sexual abuse means to lose their jobs and hence their livelihood. ‘They touch these young girls while talking, box their ears, hit them on their head. Even locking eyes with a woman can be sexual harassment according to the Vishakha judgment’ ~Rukmini.
  16. 16. The right to unionise… but only for the manufacturers (c)  Associations are almost always made with a purpose to increase collective bargaining, better engagement and negotiating with others ‘who matter’.  Mr. Mehta said India’s apparel industry has showing positive growth, after a year of stagnation, mainly on account of the imposition of the 10% excise duty last year.  In contrast ‘Workers have stopped coming to the courts. There used to be six labour courts in Bangalore, it's reduced to three’. AJ Srinivasan, labour rights advocate
  17. 17. The right to unionise… but only for the manufacturers (d)  When organization is a necessity for successful set of manufacturers, why is it wrong for workers to associate?  Does not the section of society characterised by so many vulnerabilities need an association to discuss their issues and protect its rights?
  18. 18. The government  Government apathy (laxity on the part of regulatory      and law enforcing authorities). The police and labour department, though armed with a number of favourable laws and regulations to ensure labour rights have a dismal track record. The checking is nominal, cases registered are marginal and convictions nil. Few staff are deployed for this work. Fewer are competent. Competence and dedication are a rarity.
  19. 19. Getting our act together  Only civil society response ( consumer response in particular) makes a         difference. Accept the existence of supply chain violence. The present production chain is inherently violent and needs to be totally changed. Recognise and identify forms of violence in garment factories. Support the right of workers to collective bargaining (This includes forming and strengthening their associations, in particular women only unions. Without control of the shop floor, the rights of the workers—least of all women workers—cannot be protected). Implement policy and procedures to combat sexual harassment, including union advocates, hotlines and services to support workers experiencing sexual harassment at work. Negotiate change through social dialogue and fair trade. Training and mass awareness to make a difference. Civil society certification. Ensure working permanent statutory mechanisms with periodic review and civil society and union participation.
  20. 20. What it entails (a)  More than discussions and statements.  Commitment can be tracked through a clear allotment of time, finance and human resources to cover costs and services.  Time for training of workers and management.  Organising women workers facing multiple vulnerabilities may not be ‘profitable’ within a simplistic definition.  So cost and profitability will need to be defined with more realistic indicators.
  21. 21. What it entails (b)  Multi-stakeholder partnership.  Building alliances, working in coalition and running     joint activities. Government—Industry—Labour—Civil Society partnership. ‘Government’ would include various government mechanisms: Labour department, Women’s Commission. Scale and critical mass to make a difference. Industry-wide engagement by all stakeholders.