8 million

people work in India’s garment industry


of garment sector workers are women

1 in 7

women garment workers in Bangalore have experienced rape or a forced sexual act


Karnataka in Southern India is known as the ‘Textile Capital of India,’ accounting for 20% of national garment production and 8% of national exports. The capital, Bangalore, is a major hub and most leading multinational brands like GAP, H&M, Tommy Hilfiger, ZARA and C&A source from the city. The sector employs some 500,000 workers of which 80% are women. Most are migrants from rural Karnataka, although migrant women from neighbouring states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu and from the Northern States of Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh make up approximately 10% of workers. Most women garment workers are young, unmarried and have come to Bangalore to work as a result of financial hardship. Many are from Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes. Verbal abuse, humiliation and sexual harassment are part of daily life in the factories where gender discrimination is reinforced in organisational structures of all-male managers.


In 2014, Sisters For Change identified an urgent need to support women garment workers in Southern India combat violence in the workplace. Women garment workers had little knowledge of their rights, had limited access to justice and were disadvantaged by low literacy levels and meagre means. The domestic law to prevent harassment and violence in the workplace — Prevention of Sexual Harassment in Workplace Act 2013 — was rarely implemented by corporate actors and factory owners/management, and State monitoring authorities, such as the Women’s Commission and Labour Commission, were failing to ensure legal and policy compliance.


From 2015-2016, Sisters For Change partnered with the Garment Labour Union, the only women-led union in Karnataka, and Munnade, a social organisation supporting women workers, to deliver a legal empowerment and corporate accountability intervention. Our programme aimed to combat forced labour conditions as defined by ILO standards, sexual harassment and violence against women in the workplace, trafficking, slavery and State failures in recognising women workers’ rights. This was accompanied by a State, national and international advocacy campaign. Read about our work in our report, in partnership with Munnade.

52.6 million

domestic workers globally, account for 7.5% of women’s wage employment worldwide

10.74 million

estimated domestic workers in Indonesia


rights or protections — the government fails to recognise them as workers.


In Indonesia, one of the most marginalised groups facing some of the highest levels of violence in the workplace is domestic workers. The national advocacy body JALA PRT estimates there are over 10 million domestic workers across Indonesia, one third of which are under 18 years old. In Indonesia, domestic workers are viewed as second-class citizens by dint of poverty and the status of their work. The majority are from rural communities, poorly educated, unaware of their legal rights, socially invisible and hidden from public view in private homes. As workers, they are excluded from national labour laws and protections such as limits to hours of work and decent work conditions and treatment because the Government refuses to recognise them as workers and instead classifies them as ‘family members.’


Domestic workers are additionally vulnerable by the fact that most are migrant workers, whether internally displaced moving from rural to urban settings or between islands; or as international migrants searching for work in richer economies in Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Indonesia is a major ‘sending country’ of female migrant workers. Between 60-80% of all migrant workers from the country are women, the vast majority of which work as domestic workers in Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, and, to a lesser extent, Singapore and Hong Kong.


As a result of these different factors, domestic workers suffer huge levels of exploitation, degrading and discriminatory treatment, and endure alarmingly high levels of physical and sexual violence in the workplace: a 2005 survey in Jakarta and its outskirts found that 93% had experienced physical abuse, 68% mental abuse and 42% sexual violence or assault.


From 2016-2018, Sisters For Change worked with organisations, unions and advocacy bodies in Indonesia and internationally who support women domestic workers — whether domestic or migrant — to safeguard their rights as workers and challenge the barriers they face in accessing justice and holding employers and government to account for protecting and recognising their rights as women and workers. Read about our work in our report.