19 Aug 2017 Ferado

Why female migrants are prone to sexual abuse in Cambodia

COMBODIA: Despite having a raft of measures to prevent gender-based crimes in Cambodia, women continue to face rampant sexual abuse and harassment. Experts say strict implementation of laws is needed to curb the problems.
Cambodia’s bustling capital Phnom Penh is full of places filled with excitement, entertainment and opportunities. These features have acted as a significant pull factor, attracting huge numbers of people from across the country and doubling the city’s population over the past decade.

The primary motivation for most of these migrants coming to the capital is to seek either education or work. Although this rural-urban migration is having a positive impact on the Southeast Asian country’s economy, it has also created numerous problems, particularly in the case of female migrants.

Among the major issues they encounter in the city are sexual abuse, harassment and assaults. The problems hinder equal female participation in society, keeping girls and women from realizing their full potential. They obstruct their access to education, employment, public services and recreational activities.

– Open sewage canals put Phnom Penh’s poorest at risk

– Cambodian garment workers stay poor while dressing the West

“As people are scared of sexual crimes, those in the rural areas do not want to send their daughters to the city to pursue education,” said Tepphallin Ou, vice president of Cambodia Food and service Worker Federation (CFWF), a trade union. “It reinforces the Khmer past tradition of not letting women pursue higher education,” she told DW.

A 2013 report titled Women and Migration in Cambodia released by the Ministry of Planning revealed that 58.5 percent of the female migrants in Phnom Penh sought employment. It also revealed that 32.2 percent of women who migrated to Phnom Penh were employed as garment workers, while another 10.3 percent as service or entertainment workers. And it is those who have to work night shifts that experience harassment and assaults the most.

Tepphalin said: “Those female workers have neither physical nor psychological security, since they are constantly worried about their safety when walking home on the unlighted streets at night.” She added that some drug users also dwell on the same streets, making the women feel even more unsafe.

Another issue relates to the phenomenon of victim blaming, which remains widespread in Cambodia. When it comes to sexual crimes, society usually is ready to hurl the blame toward women.

“When girls and women are assaulted or raped, they are somehow found to be at fault. Even in 2017 Cambodian women are still doubted and blamed for the violence carried out against them, sometimes even by those whose duty it is to protect their rights,” Boramey Hun, country director of the NGO Action Aid Cambodia, told DW.

-Women account for a significant proportion of the Cambodian workforce and their numbers are rising. They play a critical role in the nation’s economy, with their enormous contribution to sectors such as the garment industry. The Cambodian government recognizes this, which is why it often claims women are the “backbone” of Cambodia’s economy.

But merely issuing such statements, while overlooking women’s safety concerns, is unlikely to be helpful in advancing the cause of female security and empowerment.

To confront the problems, the government has come up with several laws and measures. But lax implementation erodes their effectiveness in tackling the issues and protecting the women. “We demand that the physical environment we live in is made safer and more responsive to our needs, and that employers and public service providers work closely with us to make the lives of young urban women safer and more secure,” Boramey said.

“In practice, this means better lighting in our streets, safer public toilets and amenities. It also means secure, quality and affordable housing, especially for our sisters working in the garment and entertainment sectors.”

19 Aug 2017 Ferado

Southeast Asian workers press for big minimum wage hikes

HANOI — Calls for major increases in minimum pay are spreading through Southeast Asia as workers grow more conscious of their rights amid economic expansion and turn up the pressure on their governments.

Malaysia and Myanmar are among the countries where labor is pushing for hikes, which would help spur consumption. But higher personnel costs could also drive foreign businesses away.

Pressing for more

The Malaysian Trades Union Congress, representing workers in mainstay industries, has lobbied for a 50% increase next year in the monthly minimum of 1,000 ringgit ($232), targeting businesses on the Malay Peninsula. The country has implemented hikes nearly every year at regular intervals since instituting a minimum wage in 2013.

Malaysia has seen gross domestic product per capita reach about $10,000 — just shy of being designated a developed economy. But workers on oil palm plantations and in factories are paid relatively little. Labor’s request is unlikely to be accepted as is. But with general elections coming up, possibly as soon as this year, Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government may look to woo workers.

Unions in Myanmar have also called for a 56% increase in minimum daily pay to 5,600 kyat ($4.14). The lifting of U.S. sanctions last year helped spur economic growth. But inflation has also marched ahead, with consumer prices climbing 7% in 2016. The government of State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader, greatly values domestic stability and so is not in a good position to ignore workers’ voices.

Wages have become a political issue in Cambodia as well. Prime Minister Hun Sen has declared that minimum monthly pay will rise to $160 from the current $153 by 2018. This would put the country close to “newly industrialized economy” status and to Thailand’s level of around $186. National elections will not come until 2018, but the opposition made significant gains in regional elections this June. The opposition has drawn support with promises of major wage hikes, and both camps now make dueling promises on pay.

A double-edged sword

Wages have risen 11-91% in the past four years for unskilled laborers at factories in national capitals across Southeast Asia, according to the Japan External Trade Organization. A government-imposed raise in minimum pay would inevitably lift actual wages.

Pay raises push up consumption and help cull labor-intensive industries that no longer suit the stage of economic development. But if raises divorced from the underlying fundamentals continue amid political instability, businesses become more likely to flee. Cambodia has suffered from companies including Ford Motor and a leading European sewn-products maker walking away from factories for such reasons as spiking labor costs.

16 Aug 2017 Ferado

ILO To Establish Global Commission

Abuja: The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has concluded arrangement to establish a Global Commission on the Future of Work.

ILO Director-General, Mr Guy Ryder said this in a statement made available to newsmen on Wednesday in Abuja.

Ryder said that the commission would be launched on Aug. 21 and the names of Commission members would be announced during the event at ILO headquarters in Geneva.

According to him, the responsibilities of the Commission will involve around four centenary conversations on work and society, decent jobs for all.

He said others are the organisation of work and production, and the governance of work.

The ILO boss noted that the Global Commission on the Future of Work was being set up under the ILO’s Future of Work Centenary Initiative launched in 2013.

“The formation of a Global Commission on the Future of Work marks the second stage in the ILO’s Future of Work Initiative.

“Its job is to undertake an in-depth examination of the future of work that can provide the analytical basis for the delivery of social justice in the 21st century.

“The Commission will produce an independent report on how to achieve a future of work that provides decent and sustainable work opportunities for all.

“The report will be submitted to the centenary session of the International Labour Conference in 2019, ‘’he said.

The ILO boss, however, said that the global body is expected to address many critical issues of the time and of the future that are rooted in the world of work.

He added that the commission would tackle the fundamental question of how a rapidly transforming world of work should be organised so that it responds to the values of social justice.

Ryder added that the ceremony would be attended by two serving heads of state of government co-chairing the Commission: Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, President of Mauritius, and Stefan Löfven, Prime Minister of Sweden.

It would be recalled that over the past 18 months, the ILO’s tripartite constituents – governments, employer and worker organisations had held national dialogues in over 110 countries in the run-up to the launch of the Global Commission.

16 Aug 2017 Ferado

Amendments to labour laws sought

Peshawar: The Pakistan Workers Federation yesterday demanded necessary amendments to labour laws to protect the rights of workers.

PWF provincial president Razim Khan told a joint meeting of the office-bearers of various labourer organisations here that the workers were troubled by the government’s failure to provide them with the rights mentioned in the convention of the International labour Organisation.

He said political parties assured workers of the resolution of their problems before elections but didn’t fulfil the promise after coming to power.

Mr Khan said none of the successive governments bothered to prioritise the resolution of the issues facing workers and therefore, they had lost the latter’s confidence.

Other speakers said the current labour laws were made during the British colonial era and therefore, they should be amended in line with the needs of modern times.

They insisted that denial of basic rights to the workers would bring a bad name to the rulers at international level.

16 Aug 2017 Ferado

Mekong Delta fights for survival amidst climate change and unbridled development

VIETNAM: At a glance, Green Farm looks like any other shrimp farm. The 35-hectare facility is divided up into 46 ponds, between 1 and 1.5 metres deep, aerated by turbines that run around the clock. The shrimps are separated by species and size and some of the ponds are left empty whilst they are cleaned.

The shrimps at Green Farm do not, however, grow in the same way as those in most of the farms dotted across the Mekong Delta, in the south of Vietnam. At Green Farm, antibiotics cannot be used, the waste water cannot be released without being treated, and the company has to trace the origin of the raw materials used in the feed given to the shrimps, along with a wide range of other standards that have to be met for sustainable certification by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC). The company was ASC certified in September 2016.

The requirements are strict and the costs higher, but certification had become crucial to the survival of Stapimex, the company that owns Green Farm, in a sector hard hit by the changes in climate patterns in the region, as well as the pollution that has built up over the decades due to the excesses of various industries. “We wanted a business that was sustainable in the long term,” explains Nguyen Dang Khoa, quality manager at the company. “You can also earn more by investing more money,” he says.

Since it came into being, the Mekong River has been depositing the sediments collected over its 4000-kilometre journey at its mouth, making the delta one of the most fertile and biodiversity-rich regions in the world. Conscious of this wealth, the Vietnamese have concentrated a large share of their national production in the region, which is home to 50 per cent of its rice production and 70 per cent of its aquaculture, for example, and accounts for a third of GDP, according to World Bank figures. Over 18 million people, a fifth of the country’s population, live in between the many branches into which the Mekong divides.

Following the economic reforms launched in 1986, production in the agriculture, livestock and aquaculture sectors was intensified, and the pesticides, fertilizers and waste from the farms ended up in the waters of the Mekong, along with the household waste.