We need a global convention to end workplace sexual harassment

metoo movement

(Unsplash, 2018)

This article is brought to you thanks to the strategic cooperation of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Caroline Kende-Robb, Secretary General, Care International


This past year, the #MeToo movement has seen celebrities, politicians, journalists and many high-profile people discuss experiences of sexual harassment and violence in the workplace – in all their multiple forms, including psychological abuse and intimidation.

But what we must keep in mind is that, from the factory floor to the boardroom, violence and harassment against women in the workplace transcends borders, salary brackets and levels of job security.

In European Union countries alone, between 40-50% of women have reported unwanted sexual advances, physical contact or other forms of sexual harassment at work.

My organization, CARE International, is currently marking the UN’s 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, aimed at “galvanizing action to end violence against women and girls around the world”. This year, the UN is encouraging people to label online discussions with the hashtag #HearMeToo.

CARE International is one of many organizations engaging in this campaign. Our position is clear: without an international agreement – a global convention, in other words – on workplace sexual harassment and violence, we cannot adequately address prevention nor provide appropriate support for survivors.

There are more than 500 multilateral treaties aimed at protecting nations against a variety of ills, from anti-corruption measures and control of greenhouse gas emissions to those that tackle doping in sports and substance misuse. Despite this, no single UN treaty addresses the one issue that has so riveted the media in the past year: violence against women in the workplace.

This gap in global legislation is also holding back women’s economic potential, negatively impacting economies and businesses everywhere.

So how can a convention help?

Conventions can accelerate national legislation and regulation, and can mobilize authorities, businesses and society to address a widespread problem. The question isn’t whether we need a global treaty to protect women from the endemic issue of abuse and harassment at work, but rather, why we don’t yet have one.

Shockingly, a study by the WORLD Policy Analysis Centre revealed more than one-third of the world’s countries have no laws against sexual harassment at work, leaving nearly 235 million women vulnerable. Where laws exist, they are often weak, or their related policies, practices and resources are too inadequate to be effective.

Global perceptions of workplace harassment.

Global perceptions of workplace harassment.
Image: Statista

The moral case for tackling this issue is clear. But so is the economic case. Violence and harassment result in direct costs to businesses due to absenteeism, turnover, litigation and compensation. There are also indirect costs in terms of reduced productivity, and harm to the business’s own reputation and market competitiveness.

In South-East Asia’s Mekong region, for example, more than 3 million women are employed in the garment industry, which is valued at more than US$34 billion. In Cambodia, nearly one in three female garment factory workers report experiencing some form of harassment in the workplace in a 12-month period, and research by CARE placed the resulting national loss of productivity in the garment sector at US $89 million annually.

Many employers are beginning to step up and address the issue. CARE works with global private-sector organizations in some of the world’s poorest places, such as Bangladesh, through education and training initiatives to support women who report abuse, while addressing the attitudes that give rise to it.

And in May this year, the International Labour Organization (ILO) agreed to establish a global convention to protect workers everywhere.

For the first time in history, we are edging closer to that convention, and to protecting women who are prevented from freely exercising their right to be part of a safe workforce. By ratifying the convention, signatories will be committing to applying it in their national contexts.

 

As the negotiations proceed, CARE is urging more governments and, importantly, more employers to join trade unions and already supportive nations in agreeing to the ILO convention by the deadline of June 2019.

The business community has a distinct role to play. It is in its interest to ensure that the national employers’ association representing it at the ILO is a progressive force for a meaningful treaty. This entails agreeing on a definition of violence and harassment that covers its many diverse forms, as well as a definition of “worker” and an agreed scope of what constitutes the “world of work”, so that everyone is included. Governments, employers and trade unions would do well to consult widely with women’s groups and civil society organizations, and tap into their expertise towards making this convention a reality.

When its legal principles are applied, a global convention on ending violence and harassment in the world of work has the power to offer recourse, protection and savings by reducing costs of absenteeism, turnover or litigation. It’s about striving towards a basic human right to safe work that also makes economic sense.

We have just over six months to achieve this milestone – who’s with us?

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the European Sting Milestones

Featured Stings

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

The EU Parliament backs the ‘Right2Water’ initiative all the way through

Move over G7. The future belongs to a more inclusive G20

Better protection against non-cash payment fraud

MEPs approve boost to workers’ rights in the gig economy

UN and African Union in ‘common battle’ for development and climate change financing

Is the West gradually losing Africa?

Accelerating a more sustainable industrial revolution with digital manufacturing

The EU can afford to invest trillions in support of employment

The JADE Spring Meeting is about to begin

Let the Italians have it their way, it may be good for all Eurozone

Four lessons for a successful switch to value-based healthcare

Strong multilateral institutions key to tackling world’s dramatic challenges, UN chief says In Moscow

6th Edition of India m2m + iot Forum to open its door on 14th January, in association with The European Sting

Global Leaders Take The Stage At MWC Shanghai 2019, in association with The European Sting

‘Be the change’ we desperately need, UN deputy chief urges global youth

‘Global trust’ declining, ‘our world needs stepped-up global leadership’

5 ways to go green in your own kitchen

Preparing for developing countries the ‘Greek cure’

COP21 Breaking News_05 December: Children Will Bear the Brunt of Climate Change: UNICEF

Innovation and Entrepreneurship Changing the Face of Europe

Generation Z will outnumber Millennials by 2019

Progress in medical research: leading or lagging behind?

Estonian Prime Minister Ratas: Europe is a thought that must become a feeling

Why economic growth depends on closing the interview gap

Mexico must increase foreign bribery enforcement: full implementation of anti-corruption reforms could help

Commission hardens its stance against carmakers ensuring emissions reductions targets

Drawing scenarios for drifting Britain; elections or May’s deadlock?

Nearly 900 reportedly killed following ‘shocking’ intercommunal attacks in DR Congo

FROM THE FIELD: Weaving profits in Azerbaijan

Where are people most proud to be European?

Eight years in, Syria still embroiled in conflict ‘that no longer sparks outrage’, Security Council hears

Why a healthy planet and a healthy economy go hand-in-hand

Biggest London City Banks ready to move core European operations to Frankfurt or Dublin?

To all far-right partisans who exploit Charlie Hebdo atrocity: a peaceful reply given by a peaceful student

Britain heading to national schism on exit from EU

Crucial medical supplies airlifted to north-east Syria to meet ‘desperate need’

IMF: The near-term outlook for the U.S. economy is one of strong growth and job creation

DR Congo: Electoral process advancing despite threat of armed groups, UN envoy tells Security Council

Execution of juvenile offender in Iran ‘deeply distressing’ – UN rights chief

‘Let the children live’: UN prepares to ramp up food aid to Yemen as famine risk grows

UN chief condemns killing of ‘blue helmets’ in DR Congo, as violence erupts prior to elections

UN Security Council offers Yemen Special Envoy ‘their full support’

‘Internal security’ or how to compromise citizens’ rights and also make huge profits

This robot has soft hands. It could be the future of sustainable production

Press coverage of migration crisis in Europe: a call for collaborative action

Brexit: Six more months of political paralysis or a May-Corbyn compromise?

This is what great leadership looks like in the digital age

“If they think they can slave an entire nation, then they will just have the opposite results!”, Alexis Tsipras cries out from the Greek parliament

When did globalization begin? The answer might surprise you

Artificial intelligence: Commission takes forward its work on ethics guidelines

Syria: Guterres concerned over reported attacks in Idlib, calls for ‘full investigation’

EU, Latin America and the Caribbean: Partnering for prosperity, democracy, resilience and global governance

Methane levels are increasing – and scientists aren’t sure why

The European Youth explains the age gap in European business in the 21st century

Flexible jobs can make work-life balance worse, a German study finds

While EU Open Days 2013 discuss the 2020 strategy, Microsoft shares a glimpse of EU 2060

Moving from commitment to action on LGBTI equality

UNICEF welcomes Bangladesh statement that Rohingya will not be forced to leave

How tiny countries top social and economic league tables (and win at football, too)

World’s Press Calls on the United Kingdom to Address Press Freedom Concerns

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s