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Thursday, February 20, 2020

We need a caring govt: Mere court's directions cannot go far

THE High Court Division on Tuesday directed the government to ensure setting up breastfeeding and baby care corners in the country's all the mills and factories. Most of the working women have to resign from jobs or take an attempt due to unavailability of baby care facilities at workplaces. When the level of gender equality in the country sets an example globally and equality between male and female students has been reached in the tertiary education level, female employment still lags behind due to insecurity of women at the workplaces and transport sectors due to problems with baby care.  Most government and non-government offices can't ensure breastfeeding facilities and don't have day-care centres, though specially mills and factories are legally bound to set up baby corners and breastfeeding units. Six railway stations have set up breastfeeding corners and a process is under way in 14 other stations after the High Court rule was issued in October last. The Dhaka Passport Office and the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in the capital, too, set up baby corners and breastfeeding units. Mothers will feel comfortable to breastfeed their children at the workplaces, shopping malls, airports, bus terminals and rail stations if there are specific corners.
 What's most disturbing is that successive governments celebrated women's inclusion into the formal economy but it failed to ensure a congenial working environment for women. In most formal sectors pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, a part of the labour force, were seen as an economic burden. In the apparel sector, there is a legal provision for women workers to enjoy 16 weeks of maternity leave. However, in practice, factory managements often deprive them of their legally entitled benefits. According to a 2018 study, only 28.7 per cent of workers get maternity leave for four months, and it also found that the authorities dilly-dallied in paying salary to them during the leave violating the Labour Law.
 We need a caring government for taking the court's direction seriously for implementation. Yet the Supreme Court is trying to improve the quality of service though much helpless about the rule of law and independence of the judiciary.