Human Rights Activist, Ms. Anne Pakoa, urged authorities to address the serious problem of sexual exploitation and harassment in workplaces.

This call comes in response to a report initially carried in the Australian media about 11 seasonal female workers from Vanuatu who have filed a lawsuit against Perfection Fresh, seeking $3.905 million for alleged sexual harassment.

Pakoa said that authorities cannot keep quiet about this issue, labelling it a protection concern. She specifically called on the Department of Labour to clarify its position on this issue.

”This is a case of sexual exploitation, where someone abuses their workers sexually to fulfil their desires and use their power over them. We cannot stay silent on this, it’s a matter of protection,” the Human Rights advocator stressed.

Expressing her frustration, Ms. Pakoa highlighted that when sending people to work in Australia, the state expects them to participate in a program that opens up labor opportunities in New Zealand and Australia. However, the reported abuses threaten the program and have a secondary impact on it.

Pakoa mentioned the primary impact of this issue is on the lives of the 11 women facing sexual abuse in a foreign land.

She is also calling for continuous efforts to address the issue and acknowledged institutions like the union in Australia supporting the women in their fight for justice.

She is encouraging other Vanuatu female workers in Australia or New Zealand facing similar situations to come forward and report, adding that it is important to speak out against sexual harassment, exploitation, and discrimination.

Pakoa notes that even issues like underpayment, where a boss promises a certain amount but fails to comply with the contract, must be addressed.

She is hoping that female workers receive the justice they deserve, as it is their right to respect and a safe working environment.