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Title: Law as a site of resistance : recourse to the law by 'garments women' in Bangladesh.
Author: Islam, Farmin.
Awarding Body: University of East London
Current Institution: University of East London
Date of Award: 1998
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Traditionally Bangladeshi women were not expected to work outside their homes, except in cases of dire necessity. The post independence period, since 1971, saw some major demographic changes, including the greater participation of women in various types of waged work. However, a more recent stage in this development has led to large numbers of women being drawn into the garments industry over the last decade. , In many ways the advent of the 'garments women represents a change in the traditional image of the Bangladeshi women. This thesis explores legal and social aspects of the lives of women in the garments industry in Bangladesh. A central theme is the possibilities for the use of law by women workers in the garments industry to protect their own interests. The legal research, therefore, examines the relevant law pertaining to industrial workers and their working conditions, and empirically investigates its application with respect to garments workers. The ideology relating to women in Bangladesh represented them as mute and . helpless victims. As a consequence it has been assumed that the legal system is beyond their reach. However, this investigation was predicated upon the idea of women's own agency. It is argued that, despite the constraints faced by women in every facet of their lives, they are able to act in their own interest and assert their rights on the basis of their own notions of fairness and justice. It was necessary, therefore, to listen to women's voices and acknowledge their own articulation of rights and resistance to masculine hegemony, both at work and in their homes. This was made possible by in-depth interviewing of garments workers. A decentred view of law helped to evaluate the ways in which women perceive their problems at work and make claims to fair treatment. The findings of the study led to a subversion of the myth of helpless Bangladeshi women, by presenting the diverse ways in which women in the garments industry resist socio-economic pressures. Data from in-depth interviews with women workers, lawyers, factory inspectors and legal claimants, and a quantitative analysis of Labour Court records, were all mutually reinforcing. They confirmed that women workers in the garments industry are using the law to resist workplace oppression. At the same time the particular litigation process pursued by the lawyers is unconventional in that it is used as a pressure mechanism against erring employers. The majority of the cases are settled outside the courtroom so that the women workers avoid the potential problems of a contested hearing. The lawyers apply their creativity in order to achieve maximum benefits for the workers. Some women, however, prefer to use the court as a platform to confront their employers. It is argued that .women are benefiting from these legal strategies both - materially and in other ways, not least in terms of enhanced self-esteem. These findings, which are contrary to the prevailing orthodoxy, open up the study of women workers and law in Bangladesh. Finally, the thesis suggests a number of seemingly small legal and administrative reforms which could improve the lives of women workers in the garments industry.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Employment law; Gender; South Asia Law Law enforcement Prisons Sociology Human services