Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Women's Rights in the Workplace

Salvadoran Women working in a factory

On March 30th, the International Labor Organization presented their report on Legislation Regarding Women's Work Rights in Central America and the Dominican Republic. The report revealed that the most common types of labor violations in the workplace for women are in regards to maternity and sexual harrasment.

International Labor Organization Representative, Maria Jose Chamorro, presented the report to the audience. Some interesting facts about El Salvador labor laws:
  • El Salvador ratified the International Agreement on Work Dicrimination in 1995, and the International Agreement on Equal Pay in 2000, while the rest of the Central American countries had ratified those agreements in the 1950's and 1960's.
  • Article 3 of the Salvadoran constitution states that "All persons are equal under the law. To have access to civil rights there could be no restrictions based on nationality, race, sex or religion."
  • Both the Convention for the Elimination of All forms of Violance Against Women and the Inter-American Convention to Prevent, Sanction and Erradicate Violance Against Women have been ratified by the Salvadoran government.

Despite fact that these and a number of other laws are in place to protect women in the workplace, there is still a great amount of discrimination and abuse directed towards working women. Here are some examples.

  • Salvadoran National Assemblywoman, Margarita Velada, gave the example of the maternity law in El Salvador that requires thatt a women be working for an employer for six months to recieve maternity benefits. Ms. Velada posed the question that if a man where to obtain a job and get an an accident a week later and need medical care, no one would doubt that his job would cover him. This is an example of discrimination that pregnant women face
  • The head of the Ministry of Work, Marina de Aviles, gave the example of how some companies, no longer allowed to give pregnancy tests to women when the apply for a job, now make women take a lie detector test and ask if they are pregnant, if they fail the test, they are not hired.
  • In El Salvador, in 2009, there were a total of 709 reports of sexual harrassment in the work place.

Presenters acknowledged that this great amount of discrimination still exists because there are few women who actually come forward and denounce it. This could be due to the fact that they are unaware of their rights and believe that the employer has legitimate reasons for discriminating, or it could be because they are in desperate need of their job and fear that by making a denouncement they will lose it. In many cases it is hard to make a denouncement because there are either no witnesses or witnesses are employers who are also afraid of losing their job.

The conclusion was made that something that governments and civil society should work for is a culture where women know their rights and are unafraid to denounce discrimnation. This would also mean promoting a culture where the legal bodies that exist side with the victim and not the employer.

SHARE Counterparts like ORMUSA and the IMU are examples of organizations working to empower women and denounce injustice. We celebrate the passing of the Life Free of Violence Against Women Law, but we know that we must continue to support those organizations in their work to become a society free of discrimination and violence against women.

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