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Report: Women farmworkers at risk of sexual harassment, abuse

A new report from an international rights group revealed that female farmworkers in South Carolina and the rest of the United States face a heightened risk of being sexually harassed and assaulted because their immigration status makes them hesitant to report the treatment to authorities.

The disturbing report by Human Rights Watch tells the accounts of female farmworkers who were raped, stalked, fondled and verbally assaulted on the job, but did not say anything to police because they were afraid of being fired or deported. Two similar reports have already been released, focusing specifically on the risks facing women and girls who work on farms in California.

According to the federal government, about 630,000 of the country's 3 million migrant farm workers are women, and about 60 percent of them are believed to be in the country illegally. The report asks Congress to pass laws protecting female farmworkers. It also encourages the repeal of laws that encourage local police to turn in illegal immigrants who have reported crimes.

"Our research confirms what farmworker advocates across the country believe: Sexual violence and sexual harassment experienced by farmworkers is common enough that some farmworker women see these abuses as an unavoidable condition of agricultural work," the report stated. The report's author said that there is an inherent imbalance of power on farms, which brews abuse and harassment.

The author interviewed 52 farmworkers and 110 attorneys, social service providers, law enforcement officials and members of the agriculture industry for the report. She found that women who work for labor contractors are even more at risk of abuse and harassment than women who are employed directly by the farmers.

The author called the treatment a human rights problem that deserves national attention. She said she hopes the report will "show the governmental barriers that exist to reporting these crimes and abuses."

Source: Fox News Latino, "Immigrant Farmworkers Face Sexual Violence and Harassment, Report Says," May 16, 2012

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