Cambodia Investment Review

Collaboration key to combating sexual harassment in Cambodian workplaces

Collaboration key to combating sexual harassment in Cambodian workplaces

Aaron Woolner

Collaboration between government, the private sector and workers is key to combating the issue of workplace sexual harassment in Cambodia, according to the H.E. Mrs. Sovann Vannaroth from the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training which is guiding the implementation of standards on these issues.

H.E. Mrs. Sovann Vannaroth was the keynote speaker at a briefing on combating Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, hosted by the European Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia’s (EuroCham) Responsible Business Hub as it looks to raise awareness of the issue in Cambodia.

2019 International Labour Association

Cambodia has adopted the 2019 International Labour Association (ILO) convention C190 which explicitly deals with this issue. H.E. Mrs. Sovann Vannaroth also said sexual harassment could also be dealt with by parts of the existing domestic criminal code and called for cooperation between government and the private sector to deal with sexual misconduct in the workplace.

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“I would like to take this opportunity to call for a joint collaboration, so that we can see how to respond to the needs of the Cambodian worker, and also the needs of Cambodian enterprises, so we can create an enabling workplace environment. It is also important to spread awareness of the role that law enforcement plays in dealing with this issue,” she said.

EuroCham workplace sexual harassment in Cambodia.

Her views were echoed by H.E Mrs. Mam Dathalineth, vice president of the vice president of Cambodia Women Entrepreneurs Association (CWEA), who also pointed out that 60% of micro and small and medium enterprises in Cambodia were female-owned and that it was important to note that sexual harassment wasn’t restricted to male on female scenarios.

“Dealing with the issue of workplace sexual harassment is not just a job for the government itself, responsibility also lies with the private sector.  So all our stakeholders have to be aware of the issue and collaborate together in order so we can work together to prevent it from happening in the future,” she added.

CWEA raising awareness

Formed in 2010 and now comprising 2,000 members the CWEA is now active across 11 provinces in Cambodia and H.E Mrs. Mam Dathalineth said it was incumbent on organisations like it to spread awareness of what sexual harassment actually is and how to do with its occurrence.

“The government ministries have done a good job in preparing the policy making and so now I believe that creating awareness is one of the most important things that we could do. I want our members to know what is meant by sexual harassment?,” she said.

EuroCham workplace sexual harassment in Cambodia.

“It sometimes seems that sexual harassment only happens to women but from my point of view, when we are talking about sexual harassment, we need to say that  it’s not just women that being harassed, sometimes a man might getting harassed by a woman but don’t know that,” she added.

Industry guidance for the sector

Fellow speaker Arron Goldman, garment sector program manager at Better Factories Cambodia, which is a partnership with the ILO, and is looking at the issue of sexual harassment in an industry were 80% of workers are female, set-out guidance for the sector but he said that it was applicable across all industries. 

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“The one key takeaway is that this is a complex issue that involves everyone, and whether as a perpetrator or as a victim, and there needs to be clear, standardised approaches for how to deal with this issue,” he said.

EuroCham workplace sexual harassment in Cambodia.

Goldman quoted a study by NGO Care, which said that one in three garment workers had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace but he said that the real number could be higher. “There are many more that just don’t report and that’s the big elephant in the room which needs to be acknowledged as well,” Goldman said.

EuroCham’s Responsible Business Hub (RBH) is a free service help desk for local businesses. It provides tailor-made, free-of-charge information and advisory services related to sustainability and due diligence risk management which will ultimately link the gap between national and international level actors in the global supply chain of the textile industry.

The RBH was created by GIZ FABRIC, in collaboration with Textile Apparel Footwear and Travel Goods Association in Cambodia (TAFTAC) and supported by the European Chamber of Commerce (EuroCham).

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