Human Rights Watch: Protect Immigrants Through Violence Against Women Act, Other Laws
(New York) – Hundreds of thousands of immigrant farmworker women and girls in the United States face a high risk of sexual violence and sexual harassment in their workplaces because US authorities and employers fail to protect them adequately, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The current US Senate bill reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) would go some way toward fixing the problem and should be enacted, but much more needs to be done, Human Rights Watch said.
The 95-page report, “Cultivating Fear: The Vulnerability of Immigrant Farmworkers in the US to Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment,” describes rape, stalking, unwanted touching, exhibitionism, or vulgar and obscene language by supervisors, employers, and others in positions of power. Most farmworkers interviewed said they had experienced such treatment or knew others who had. And most said they had not reported these or other workplace abuses, fearing reprisals. Those who had filed sexual harassment claims or reported sexual assault to the police had done so with the encouragement and assistance of survivor advocates or attorneys in the face of difficult challenges.
“Rape, groping, and obscene language by abusive supervisors should not be part of the hard labor conditions that immigrant farmworkers endure while producing the nation’s food,” said Grace Meng, researcher in the US Program at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “Instead of being valued for their contributions, immigrant farmworkers are subject to a dysfunctional immigration system and labor laws that exclude them from basic protections most workers take for granted.”