Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Sam Heng said the government is committed to eliminating violence in the workplace.
Civil society, he said, supported the government’s action but wanted a specific mechanism introduced to help support female victims of such violence.
Sam Heng was speaking on Thursday at a regional seminar on The Business of Women at Work in cooperation with CARE Cambodia and Better Factories Cambodia (ILO-BFC). It was supported by the Australian government.
The minister said the issues of violence and sexual harassment at work occurred for many reasons. Participation from all relevant parties in the supply chain including workers, employers, factory owners, buyers, unions, government and development partners is necessary to tackle the issue, he said.
“The government is committed to preventing and eliminating such issues from the workplace as well as society as a whole.
“Cambodia had also voted to support the adoption of new International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards, and this again reflects the government’s will and commitment in contributing to the elimination of violence and harassment at work.”
NGO Silaka’s director Thida Khus said this issue is a concern at almost every workplace. She said the abuse of women occurs at almost every workplace in the form of verbal sexual teasing (use of offensive language) wherein certain cases led to sexual abuse or harassment.
She said social morality was not promoted due to a lack of moral education, and thus, some men seemed not to value women as they see them only as sexual objects.
Khus said: “At some workplaces, men always tease, speak sexually, play and touch women. They laugh, but the women are embarrassed. Additionally, this form of harassment also takes place in public places.
“It affects the dignity of women and is a worrying issue because there seems to be little sense of social morality. Women who have been sexually harassed must be brave in reporting to the authorities and woman rights protection organisations.”
Women’s rights organisation Klahaan director Bunn Rachana, who is a researcher and compiler of documents related to discrimination against women, said she supports the government’s commitment.
“I support this action but I would like the government to have a clearer mechanism rather than mere commitment. If there is violence against any woman, the law must be strictly enforced and focused on protecting the victim.”
According to the Women Workers Address Gender-Based Violence in Garment Factories in Cambodia survey result, 48 per cent of respondents self-identified as targets of gender-based violence at work.
“Meanwhile, 87 per cent experienced verbal harassment or unwanted touching based on their gender. Additionally, 46 per cent of women had a supervisor or manager force them to become their mistress or ‘second wife’ with the understanding that it would improve their working condition.”
Sam Heng urged all parties to prevent and get rid of violence and harassment at work together with unions and civil society organisations which are indispensable partners to achieve a sustainable development goal.