Although widely under reported, sexual harassment has long been an issue in the global export-oriented garment industry. Research indicates that it takes various forms and is widespread, with women workers most likely to be affected.
Sexual harassment remains high in factories because it is often large numbers of women, young, inexperienced and in some cases, illiterate, being supervised by a small number of men. Stereotypes of garment workers being perceived as promiscuous and having ‘low status’ also play a role, as does the intense industry pressure to meet production targets, which can lead to abusive disciplinary practices on the factory floor.
In recent years, serious allegations of sexual abuse have been made across Jordan’s apparel industry. Surveyed in 2011, 20 % of workers said they had very little understanding of what constituted sexual harassment, even while 25 % of workers surveyed were concerned about behaviour that could be classified as such. 49 % said it was not an issue of concern, while 6 % did not want to answer the question. The latest surveying shows that concern about sexual harassment dropped, with the proportion of participants reporting that sexual harassment is a concern declining by 10%. Fewer workers are feeling so concerned about sexual harassment that they discussed the issue with management (from 16% to 9%) or considered quitting (from 8% to 5%). There remains a concern that workers are not reporting sexual harassment, as the proportion of participants who do not want to answer rose from 3% to 10%.