Rights group wants licences of firms in BBC exposé revoked
What you need to know:
- Coalition of Organsations Working on Sexual Violence in Kenya want stringent actions to be taken against the two companies.
- They demand that all Kenyans of goodwill, global citizens and trading partners of the implicated institutions to suspend patronage and business with the said firms.
- The government has embarked on investigations into two British companies.
Women’s rights groups have called for revoking of licences of two British-owned tea estates implicated in BBC's "Sex for Work; the cost of our tea" documentary that was published last Monday.
In a joint press statement released on Friday by the Coalition of Organsations Working on Sexual Violence in Kenya, the human rights’ group condemned the horrific working conditions and sexual exploitation that women and girls working in Finlays (K) limited and Unilever (Lipton Teas) Company experience.
The group now demand immediate compensation for the women, and stringent actions to be taken against the two companies.
“We also demand that all Kenyans of goodwill, global citizens and trading partners of the implicated institutions immediately suspend patronage and business with the said institutions until all perpetrators are identified, charged and prosecuted and the said institutions publicly demonstrate real measures put in place to protect women at the workplace,’’ read part of their statement.
In the referenced BBC expose, about 75 per cent of the women in Kericho County are shown suffering spinal injuries as labourers in the tea estates while enduring sexual harassment and rape. Further, the implicated line managers, team leaders and supervisors are also shown not to face any sanctions or consequences for the actions.
The consortium of organisations that includes Gender Violence and Recovery Centre (GVRC), Echo Network Africa and Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (Creaw), also alleged that the expose only revealed a prevalent trend in most tea plantations.
“It must be noted that these allegations are historical and have been documented, for decades, by civil society organisations including police reports of the sexual abuse of children in the farms that are not acted upon. This lack of action by implicated farms points to a culture of looking the other way to benefit from a workforce that is emotionally and physically broken, rendering the women and girls incapable of fighting for their rights,’’ read the statement.
The group pegged their demands on the Employment Act, which prohibits discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace and the Sexual Offences Act, which criminalizes sexual violence.
In a separate press statement released on Tuesday, the chairperson of Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (Kewopa) Gathoni Wamuchomba, called on the cabinet secretary in charge of Labour and Social Protection, the National Police Service and Judiciary to ensure all perpetrators are brought to book.
Kewopa also advised the government to implement the commitments they made in June 2021 on Generation Equality.
“The state should ensure that public and private sector institutions strengthen, implement, and finance evidence-driven laws, policies, and action plans to end gender-based violence against women and girls in all their diversity,’’ said Ms Wamuchomba in the statement.
At the same time, the government has embarked on investigations into two British companies. The Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, through a press statement released on Friday, said it has embarked on an investigation into Finlays (K) Limited and Unilever Company.
According to the statement signed by Permanent Secretary (PS) for Labour Geoffery Kaituko, the two companies are accused of not complying with the occupational health and safety regulations, transmission of sexually related diseases by senior managers, poor work conditions and lack of grievance handling mechanisms in the companies.
“As a Ministry, we have taken up this matter seriously and are engaging all parties involved including the workers, trade unions and employers, to get to the bottom of this matter,’’ read part of the statement.
The PS reiterated the government's commitment to ensure decent work for all persons without discrimination.
“We plan to do this by advanced labour inspections, dispute resolution mechanisms and encourage the development of comprehensive workplace human resource policies and programmes,’’ he stated in the statement.
Mr Kaituko promised to prepare a comprehensive report on the case as soon as investigations are concluded.