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Female Garment Factory Workers in Vietnam Face Widespread Physical, Sexual Abuse, Study Shows

A new study interviewed 736 female Vietnamese garment workers to gain insights into the extent of abuse these women are facing.

According to The Guardian, the study was conducted by Fair Wear Foundation, Care International and led by global gender-based violence researcher Dr. Jane Pillinger. It was published earlier this month and looks into the working conditions of female workers in factories in three Vietnamese provinces.

The results: 43.1% of all respondents reported that they have suffered at least one type of violence or harassment in the previous year. Of the women who claimed to have suffered abuse at their workplace, 34.3% have suffered physical harassment such as forced kissing, touching, hitting, punching, leaning; 28.9% report obscene gestures, stares, offensive texts or emails, physical stalking; and 87.7% said they have experienced unsolicited verbal harassment such as comments about their body and sexually inappropriate jokes.

The actual number, according to Pillinger, is potentially higher. "There’s a significant culture of silence around this, and as a result, the numbers are probably even higher: we know from feedback that some women wouldn’t answer the questions in the interviews, perhaps because they feared their responses would somehow get back to their employers or husbands."

While the names of the factories and the brands they're manufacturing for are kept secret, Pillinger emphasizes that major US and European brands played a big role in these factories' working conditions. Besides sexually charged abuse and harassment, the women in the study also endure unpaid overtime and detrimental effects on their well-being due to pressure.

“If we go to the toilet too much, it’s recorded for attendance and our pay is deducted,” said a respondent in Ho Chi Minh City. “My supervisor hits me and beats my hands with a stick. He throws things at me,” said another in Dong Nai Province.

Migrant workers, newcomers and younger women are also more likely to be subjected to violence and harassment, the study also reveals. Vietnam's garment sector currently employs approximately two million workers, more than 80% of which are women.

[Photo: Factory workers in Vietnam/The Guardian. Photos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect the subjects mentioned in the article.]


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