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Women workers in a garment factory in Cambodia.  © 2014 Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

(Geneva) – Governments, employers, and workers from around the world will meet beginning May 28, 2018, to discuss a proposed international treaty on violence and harassment in the workplace, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch has issued a 16-page report outlining key issues in advance of the International Labour Organization (ILO) conference, scheduled through June 8, in Geneva.

The report sets out research on violence and harassment at work, particularly for domestic workers, garment workers, fishers, farm workers, and migrant workers. It also highlights examples of good government practices and includes recommendations for essential elements to a proposed international ILO convention and for ending violence and harassment in the workplace.

“The ‘Me Too’ movement has highlighted pervasive gender-based violence from the most well-known and powerful industries to the most marginalized and invisible sectors,” said Rothna Begum, Middle East women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Countries can help set things right by adopting a global binding standard to prevent and respond to violence and harassment at work.”

The World Bank’s “Women, Business and the Law 2018” report found that 59 out of 189 countries whose economies were studied had no specific legal provisions covering sexual harassment in employment. More broadly, the ILO has noted that there are many gaps in legal protections relating to violence and harassment in the workplace. They include a lack of coherent laws, a lack of coverage in laws and policies for workers most exposed to violence, and an overly narrow definition of “workplace” in existing laws and regulations.

“The ILO is presenting countries a unique opportunity to help end all forms of violence and harassment in the workplace,” Begum said. “Governments, employers, and workers at the ILO conference should move to support a global treaty expected to be ready for adoption next year.”


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