South Asia: Unions vow to sustain gender equality campaign

BWI affiliates from India, Nepal and Bangladesh on 8 December attended a South Asia webinar on trade union responses to violence against women (VAW) as part of the global 16 Days of activism for the elimination of all forms of gender-based violence. The trade unionists discussed the policy gaps and the ground-level challenges of addressing violence and harassment against women at homes and workplaces. 

All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) General Secretary Amarjeet Kaur led the online discussion by presenting the legal hurdles and grassroots challenges in addressing gender concerns in various spheres of life. She also stressed the need to have zero tolerance to any form of harassment and violence against women. 

She was followed by Dr. Bharti Sharma, Honorary Secretary of the Shakti Shalini, an organisation actively working against all forms of gender and sexual violence since 1987. She explained the different forms of harassment and violence experienced by women and the existing preventive and remedial measures available to women, even as she lamented the gaps in the implementation of Protection of Sexual Harassment (POSH) Committees under the existing legal framework of India’s Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act. 

A substantial part of the webinar was also devoted in discussing the trade unions’s various campaign efforts for the global 16 days campaign against VAW. Smritee Lama of the Asia Pacific Regional Women’s Committee discussed the unions’ push in the region to ratify the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 190 on the violence and harassment at workplaces. On the other hand, Tonmoy Rahman of BSBWWF-Bangladesh gave his firsthand experience on the challenges faced by women construction workers in Bangladesh. 

BWI-Indian Affiliates Council Chair Dr. R.C. Khuntia stressed the need to locate women workers and their issues in India’s recent labour code changes. Meanwhile, BWI National Women’s Committee Chair (IAC) Kulwant Kaur said that unions should find more pathways on how to sustain the campaign beyond the global 16 days campaign. 

“I congratulate our fellow trade unionists for successfully leading this campaign. Our work and interventions on gender issues must continue. They must not be limited to symbolic and  routinary days of action. We have to continue forging different pathways to sustain interventions to make gender equality a reality,” Kaur said.  

BWI’s affiliates across South Asia joined the global 16 days campaign by launching  array of activities such as digital campaigns, online meetings, workers’ interactions and social media engagements.