Perspective: human rights in Bangladesh

(CC license: click image for source)

(CC license: click image for source)

The publication of Human Rights Watch’s 2014 World report today (21 January 2014) is important to our Challenge, as it helps us to place the Rana Plaza collapse and its aftermaths in a Bangladeshi context.

Any form of ethical fashion that emerges in the wake of the collapse will require Bangladeshi garment workers, unions, NGOs and Government to work together. This article based on the HRW report is therefore timely and worth reading…

Bangladesh tumbled backward on human rights in 2013 as the government engaged in a harsh crackdown on members of civil society, the media, and political opposition, Human Rights Watch said in itsWorld Report 2014 released today. The authorities often employed violent and illegal measures against protesters, and failed to initiate any investigations into credible allegations of unlawful deaths at the hands of its security forces. Measures to protect labor rights after a series of factory deaths fell far short of international standards. “This year has been tragic for Bangladesh, with political unrest leading to unnecessary deaths of protesters, security personnel, and bystanders,” saidBrad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The government has failed to stem the cycle of violence by ordering investigations into violations by security forces, and instead has become increasingly intolerant of dissent, going to extreme extents to suppress opposition and criticism.” …

Despite pledges, the government failed to improve worker conditions in garment and other industries after the deaths of more than 1,100 workers in the April 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza building. Under domestic and international pressure, the Bangladeshi parliament enacted changes to the Labor Act in July. The amendments lifted some restrictions on union registrations but failed to effectively protect the right to freedom of association. Regular inspections of factories, due to start in September, remained stalled by administrative delays. …

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The report’s chapter on Bangladesh goes into more detail…

Bangladesh has long had notoriously poor workplace safety, with inadequate inspections and regulations. This issue was spotlighted in April, when the Rana Plaza building, which housed five garment factories, collapsed. The building had been evacuated the day before due to cracks in the structure, but the workers had then been ordered back to work. More than 1,100 workers died.

Under domestic and international pressure, on July 15, 2013, the Bangladeshi parliament enacted changes to the Labour Act. The amendments, which did away with the requirement that unions provide the names of leaders to employers at the time of registration and allow workers to seek external expert assistance in bargaining, failed to lift a number of other restrictions on freedom of association. The law also provided exemptions to export processing zones where most garments are made. Even after Rana Plaza, Bangladeshi law remains out of compliance with core International Labour Organization standards, including Convention No. 87 on freedom of association and Convention No. 98 on the right to organize and bargain collectively.

The government also undertook to have more regular inspections of factories in 2013, but inspections which were due to start in September remained stalled by administrative delays. In a welcome move, the authorities dropped charges against the leaders of the Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity, who had been hampered and harassed in their work for years by frivolous criminal charges. …

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Further reading

If you want to read the ILO Conventions mentioned in the report, 87 is here and 98 is here.

You can also read the ILO’s latest Occupational safety and health country profile: Bangladesh here.

If you to find out more about the ILO, this is a good place to start.


One thought on “Perspective: human rights in Bangladesh

  1. Government’s crackdown on opposition party members and also greedy behavior of garments business owners in Bangladesh is pushing the country backward in terms of human rights. Human rights in Bangladesh must improve in order to improve the image of Bangladesh as a civilized nation.

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