Challenges faced by women seafarers

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is celebrating 18th May as the International Day for Women in Maritime to recognize the significant contributions of women in the maritime industry and promote gender equality within the sector. Today, women represent around 1.2% per cent of the global seafarer workforce, it is estimated that there are around 24,059 women seafarers.

The idea to dedicate a day to Women in Marine stems from the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially Goal 5, which primarily focuses on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls. IMO recognizes the need to address gender imbalance as the maritime industry has traditionally been a male-dominated maritime industry. Hence it is essential to take active steps to enhance women’s participation in the maritime sector. Therefore, this day is being celebrated to promote women’s participation and involvement in maritime activities.

Every year, for this day a specific theme is decided, and these themes often revolve around promoting gender diversity, fostering women’s empowerment, and enhancing opportunities for women in maritime professions. The theme for 2023 is “Mobilizing networks for gender equality”.

The International Day for Women in Maritime serves as a platform to recognize and showcase the achievements of women in different maritime roles, such as seafarers, engineers, naval architects, port workers, and maritime administrators. Overall, it plays a crucial role in promoting gender equality, empowering women, and encouraging greater participation of women in the maritime industry. It serves as a reminder of the importance of diversity and inclusion in the sector, ultimately contributing to a more sustainable and equitable maritime industry.

In order to achieve equality in the real sense, protecting the Human Rights of women seafarers should be the priority. This piece will highlight various challenges faced by women seafarers and the position of India in defending the Human Rights of Indian Women Seafarers.

Human Rights of Women Seafarers:

Owing to the lesser representation of women seafarers in the maritime industry, their rights are often overlooked. Prejudice against women professionals is accepted this often runs a risk of their rights being denied to them. Women seafarers face a series of gender-related challenges while working in a male-dominated maritime industry.

These challenges include stress, anxiety, depression, isolation, loneliness and occupational injuries. It is important to note that the list of challenges is extensive and cannot be fully explored in detail at this stage. Women find themselves simultaneously dealing with gender-based challenges while adjusting to a gender-biased job in the maritime sector. Maritime welfare support was traditionally developed to respond to the needs of male seafarers. Now that we are witnessing a greater presence of women in the maritime industry, now the welfare agencies need to ask themselves, what more can be done to identify and meet the support needs of women seafarers.

Sexual harassment at the workplace is also a major concern and firm action needs to be taken from all sectors of the maritime industry. Sexual harassment or intimidation can occur in various manner, ranging from what might be perceived as inappropriate remarks, to actual physical threats, violence and all of these have great impacts on mental health of the victim. It should be a priority to make all the vessels a safer space for women in maritime.

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