ACRATH encouraging support for 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence

By Mary Brazell, 10 December 2018

Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH) is asking parishes, workforces and communities to call for action during the United Nations-declared 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign, which runs from November 25 to December 10 – Human Rights Day.

The theme for 2018 is ‘Together we can end Gender-Based Violence in the World of Work’, which looks at the difference forms of violence that women and girls face.

According to ACRATH’s website on the 16 Days Campaign, human trafficking is one of the severest examples of violence against women and girls. “Millions of women and girls are forced to work in terrible conditions for little pay and no chance of an education.”

Statistics released in the 2018 Australian Human Rights Commission Report “Everyone’s business: Fourth national survey on sexual harassment in Australian workplaces”:

  • One in three Australians were sexually harassed in the workplace in the last five years;
  • Women were more likely than men to have been sexually harassed in the workplace in the last five years – 39% of women compared with 26% of men; and
  • When looking at victims of sexual harassment overall, women made up almost three in five (58%) of victims of workplace sexual harassment in the past five years.

The UN Women National Committee Australia, a UN-recognised partner, says that social media movements such as #MeToo and other similar campaigns are “exposing the sheer magnitude of sexual harassment and other forms of violence that women everywhere suffer, every day. “Breaking the silence is the first step to transforming the culture of gender-based violence.”

Loreto Sister and ACRATH member Sr Anne Kelly IBVM has written on the cotton industry and is asking consumers to question their choices at Christmas.

“Forced labour, including child labour, is alarmingly common in the cotton industry. Anti-Slavery International estimates that there are at least 12.3 million people whose work meets the definition of forced labour”, Sr Anne writes.

“The Uzbek government compels up to a third of its citizens to work in its cotton fields each year. Teachers, health workers and other civil servants are expected to work in the fields during the cotton harvest. All schools used to be closed at this time, so that children could toil as well.

“The 3 million Bangladeshi garment makers, 90% of whom are women, are the lowest paid workers in the world (Reuters, 24 April 2015). As well as earning a pittance and toiling in unsafe, cramped and hazardous conditions, many are forced to work 14-16 hour shifts in order to meet unrealistic production quotas.”

A 2017 essay from Human Rights Watch on transparency in the apparel industry details the story of a female garment worker in Cambodia.

“An eight-month pregnant worker from Cambodia told [Human Rights Watch Senior Counsel, Women’s Rights Division, Aruna Kashyap] that a ferment factory terminated her contract because she was pregnant. The factory refused to pay her legally required maternity benefits, and told her not to return.”

Apparel brands such as Cotton On, H&M, Kmart and Target are becoming more transparent with the disclosure of where their garments are made, but there are still some larger brands who keep this information withheld.

Baptist World Aid Australia delivers the Ethical Fashion Report every year, which awards grades “according to 33 specific criteria” to companies based on the efforts they undertake to “mitigate the risks of forced labour, child labour and worker exploitation in their supply chains.”

The Ethical Fashion Report lists brands such as Cotton On, Kathmandu, Bonds, Country Road and Reebok with an A to A- rating, which shows that they have “labour rights management systems that, if implemented well, should reduce the extent of worker exploitation”.

On the other end of the scale, brands such as Lowes and Roger David received a D- rating, with Decjuba and Bras n Things receiving an F grade.

ACRATH have published a written reflection service for anti-trafficking, prepared by Anne McPhee IBVM, based on a reflection by the late ACRATH member Sr Carol Hogan SSS. This reflection can be downloaded here.

Members of ACRATH will light candles each day of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign at their office in Melbourne, and have asked supporters to participate in their own workplaces or classrooms.

As each candle is lit, ACRATH is asking participants to reflect about topics such as “girls forced into labour from a young age and thus denied their right to education” and “women leaders in politics, religion, civil society and healthcare working to eliminate all forms of human trafficking.” The reflection topics and a range of prayers of intercession on this topic can be downloaded and read here.

Visit https://acrath.org.au/16-days-campaign/ and  http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/take-action/16-days-of-activism for more information about the 16 Days Campaign.

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