For how long will we allow policymakers to limit regulations and provide maximum freedoms to multinational corporations? The rights of vulnerable groups including women, children, indigenous groups and people with disabilities are often disregarded with many workers becoming victims of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, exploitation and negligence.
The recent BBC documentary “Sex for Work: The True Cost of Our Tea” is a glaring example of how multinational cooperations continue to flourish for decades while flaunting human rights abuses without any reprieve from the government. The allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse of labour rights depicted in the BBC documentary are not isolated cases.
The exploitation of women in the flower industry in Kenya is well known. The flower industry contributes significantly to the country’s economy serving international markets in the EU and UK. The workers, the majority being women, are exploited in this industry and forced to work under threats and intimidation to retain their jobs. In addition, the working conditions are deplorable, women earn low wages and worse still become victims of sexual harassment.
The UN Human Rights Council approved a set of Guiding Principles declaring that commercial enterprises hold a responsibility to respect human rights. They also declared that states should investigate and sanction corporate human rights abuses and provide remedies to victims. While the principles are non-binding, states are expected to prevent and punish human rights abuses by cooperation as part of their existing duties under international law.
Kenya should move away from its token adherence to human rights treaties and commit to holding multinational cooperation accountable for human rights abuses. Stop saying, start doing! Protect your workforce.
Lavender Namdiero is a Senior Campaigner at Amnesty International Kenya and writes in her capacity. Email: [email protected]