Women facing sexual harassment at work often do not lodge complaints due to fear of losing jobs and being stigmatised, speakers told a roundtable.
Many employers also try to keep the allegations of sexual harassments to themselves to save the companies’ image, they said.
Addressing the discussion at the Prothom Alo office in the capital, the experts said fewer women would join the workforce if the offenders were not punished.
They also called for speedy trial of the cases of sexual abuse.
The Bangla daily organised the discussion with help from Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.
The nature of sexual harassment and its extent at the workplaces are changing with the increasing use of technology, the speakers said.
Mujibul Haque, chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour and Employment Ministry, said the trial of the sexual harassment cases should be held quickly.
MJF Executive Director Shaheen Anam said women who protest sexual harassment should not be in fear of losing their jobs.
Many mothers are compelled to quit their jobs due to a lack of child care facilities at the workplaces, she said.
Violence against women is rising not only in the workplaces, but also at homes and public places, she said.
“It is important to ensure protection for those who protest sexual harassment,” she said.
Abul Hossain, project director of Multi-Sectoral Programme on Violence Against Women of the Women and Children Affairs Ministry, said the survivors of violence suffer in every stage when they seek legal redress.
He urged the survivors to call the hotline numbers -- 109, 333 or 999 -- to seek help.
Two women garment workers, who shared their experiences, said the superintendents often touched them inappropriately.
Sometimes women workers are not even allowed to go to the toilets, they said, adding that the women workers didn’t complain fearing further abuse.
Tania Haque, associate professor of gender studies at Dhaka University, said workplace sexual harassment had implications for entire the company.
If sexual harassment is not checked soon, women’s participation in workplace will be affected, she said.
Karmojibi Nari Executive Director Rokeya Rafique said companies should take the liability for any sexual harassment of a woman employee.
Citing an MJF study from 2018, its Gender Adviser Banasree Mitra Neogi, said about 23 percent women garment workers are sexually harassed at work.
Among the workers interviewed, 79.90 percent women and 79 percent men have not heard about the High Court directives regarding the prevention of sexual harassment at work.
The MJF interviewed 425 workers of 12 factories in Dhaka and 10 factories in Chattogram last year. The anti-harassment committee, recommended by the HC, had been formed in only six of the factories.
Prothom Alo Associate Editor Abdul Qayyum, Bangladesh Labour Foundation Project Officer Ishrat Jahan, International Labour Organisation Training Officer Shipra Chowdhury, National Human Rights Commission Deputy Director M Rabiul Islam, Awaj Foundation President Mamtaj Begum, MJF Programme Officer Shoma Dutta also spoke at the roundtable moderated by Prothom Alo Assistant Editor Firoze Chowdhury.