Guatemalan women face continual discrimination in maquilas, clothing factories, which routinely prevent women’s access to health care. A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, “From the Household to the Factory: Sex Discrimination in the Guatemalan Labor Force” chronicles how these maquilas target pregnant women for discrimination and deny them maternity benefits dictated by Guatemalan law. According to HRW, 80 percent of maquila workers are women. Their access to reproductive health care is being compromised by unlawful maquila practices.
Several U.S. companies have contracts with maquilas that enforce discriminatory practices inlcuding Target, The Limited, Wal-Mart, GEAR for Sports, Liz Claiborne, and Lee Jeans, all cited by HRW. While these U.S. companies all have policies against discrimination, the reality of the maquila workers, as documented by HRW, shows that discrimination is “persistent” there. According to HRW, “In an era of increased globalization, corporations have a critical role to play in promoting and protecting universally recognized human rights generally, and labor rights in particular.”
Human Rights Watch is also calling on the Guatemalan government to do more to protect women workers, especially domestic workers. HRW contends that domestic workers, many of whom are adolescent girls, are frequently victims of sexual abuse and assault. These workers are also not entitled to a minimum wage, an eight-hour workday, or employee-paid health care.