Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Women in call centers

There has understandably been a large amount of concern expressed over issues of safety for women working in the night shifts in Indian call centers. An article I found on MSN asks How safe are girls on graveyard shifts?

The statistics are telling (so is the title of the article). Three cases of violence that have garnered large amounts of attention in the media.

"November 3 2007: Jyothikumari, a Wipro BPO employee in Pune was raped and murdered by her driver.
December 13 2005: Pratibha Srikantamurthy, a HP Globalsoft employee in Bangalore, was raped and murdered by a person who posed as the cab driver
August 6 2005: A cab driver threw acid on the face of a 22-year old girl working in a Pune BPO when she resisted the advances made by him.
With headlines like these bursting out of our morning newspapers, is it any surprise that parental hearts skip a beat when their daughters board the cab to work on a US or UK shift at the BPO company?

The rest of the article seems to ostensibly lay blame on the inability of the company to check the antecedents of cab drivers and on employees who get "over-friendly" with them. Questions of the structural violence against women in Indian public space and the short arm of law remain hidden.

Also, it is wise to remember that it was only in 2005 on account of the call center industry that the Factories Act of 1948 was amended to provide for protection to women on night shifts. Until then, there had always been women workers in factories and SEZs where it was not required that the organization provide safety measures. Women were always working the night shift, but the amendment was more of a lawful recognition and provision of tantamount rights.

A question of class...

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