A campaign to stop sexual harassment at the workplace will be at the center of efforts to curb violence against women over the next year, NGO representatives said at a meeting with government officials Sunday.
Beginning with a global campaign “16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women,” which is being organized by international NGO CARE and starts next month, activists in Cambodia will encourage workers and business leaders to recognize and stop sexual harassment.
“We’re asking communities and workplaces to stand up and say sexual harassment is not acceptable,” said Jenny Conrad, a spokeswoman for CARE in Cambodia. The campaign will include media spots and poster distribution along with on-the-ground outreach.
CARE has previously worked with with beer promoters to address violence and sexual harassment, but over the past year and a half it has expanded the scope of its work to include other vulnerable groups including garment factory workers, Ms. Conrad said.
“We’ve been working with garment factories with a broad aim of identifying what is sexual harassment and how to prevent it,” she said, adding that this work would inform their upcoming advocacy efforts.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) found in a 2012 study that one in five female garment factory workers reported being sexually harassed or being the subject of humiliating behavior with sexual undertones. The study also found that female garment workers are at greater risk of experiencing sexual harassment or assaults outside of work.
One common example of this risk is when workers travel home in a crowded truck late at night, said Mann Senghak, an official with the Free Trade Union.
“When the car shakes, some men try to fondle the women,” Mr. Senghak said, adding that men often blame bumpy roads for causing them to grab the women. “There are many cases regarding violence, intimidation and sexual harassment against women in factories.”
One goal of CARE’s campaign to stop sexual harassment is to teach people what it means, according to Ros Sopheap, executive director of Gender and Development for Cambodia.
“People in general don’t know the meaning of sexual harassment and don’t know that it is against human rights or against the law,” Ms. Sopheap said.
According to the Labor Law, sexual harassment is illegal, but it is not defined.
“If someone is sexually harassed, somehow they don’t know that it is harassment, so they keep quiet,” she said.
Additional reporting by Mech Dara