The Ready Made Garments (RMG) sector,the biggest earner of foreign currency for Bangladesh after the agricultural sector, may face an uncertainty in its exports to the US as a result of the signing of a bill opposing import of goods produced by forced labour by US President Barack Obama.
Although there was no official remark on whether Bangladeshi goods would be affected by the restrictions, the US government lists garment products from Bangladesh among goods that are produced by child or forced labour.
According to the new law, shipments derived from slavery will be kept out of the country that closes a legal loophole that allowed import of such goods if US demand exceeded domestic production.
When contacted, Senior Commerce Secretary Hedayetullah Al Mamoon that there was no scope to include Bangladesh in the provision of forced labour or workersâ€™ abuse, as â€œforced labour is completely banned by the constitution and there is no such abuse of women in the country.â€
However, he added that an official statement would be made after a US statement reaches the Bangladeshi government and discussions are held with authorities concerned following a review.
Meanwhile, BGMEA President Siddiqur Rahman said that there was no slavery, child labour, forced labour or abuse of RMG women workers in Bangladesh.He claimed that such allegations of forced labour were totally absent in other industrial sectors too.
He added that Bangladesh is an International Labour Organisation-ratified country and follows the labour act and the ILO standards to ensure workersâ€™ rights.
Mustafizur Rahman, executive director of Centre for Policy Dialogue, also said that allegations of abuse on female workers in the RMG sector did not reflect the reality and were unjustified.
Even in the 16 conditions outlined by the US government after the suspension of GSP, the Obama administration did not mention this issue of forced labour, he added.
Sirajul Islam Rony, president of pro-government Bangladesh National Garment Workers-Employees League, said that any allegation about abusing women in the RMG sector was insulting for the tens of thousands of workers as they were aware of their own rights through trade unions.
After the 2013 Rana Plaza incident, the level of compliance, safety, and workersâ€™ rights had reached such great heights that there could be no abuse of women workers in the country, Rony claimed.
According to a 2014 assessment by the United States Department of Labour, the other goods produced by child or forced labour in Bangladesh are bidis, bricks, dried fish, footwear, steel furniture, glass, leather, jute textiles, matches, poultry, salt, shrimp, soap and textiles.
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