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France Moves Closer to Ratifying Workplace Harassment Treaty

Parliament Should Support Ratification and Improve Protections in National Law

Women demonstrate and march for “First of Chores” on International Day for Women's Rights in Paris, France, March 8, 2021. © 2021 Sipa via AP Images

Two years after a landmark treaty to combat workplace violence and harassment was adopted, France has taken an important step towards domesticating the effort.

On Wednesday, France’s Council of Ministers approved the ratification of the ILO Violence and Harassment Convention, which will now go to parliament for consideration.

Action-Aid Peuples Solidaires, CARE France, Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT), and Human Rights Watch have been campaigning tirelessly for France to ratify the treaty which sets out global standards for preventing and responding to violence and harassment at work.

“We are angry, we are tired of double talk, and the instrumentalization of the cause of equality between men and women,” a group of French feminists said in a public letter published yesterday.

Ratification means that France has to ensure protections in French law meet the treaty’s standards. To be at the forefront of the fight to end gender-based violence at work, France should look to the guidance in Recommendation 206, which elaborates how governments should apply the treaty.

Action-Aid, CARE France, and CGT published a detailed analysis on Tuesday of how France’s laws fall short and the steps it should take to improve them.

Human Rights Watch, alongside these groups, has called upon the French government to make critical reforms at the time of ratification.

These include penalizing employers who do not have a violence protection plan or address sexual harassment in their assessment of occupational risks. Second, the governments should prohibit companies from firing workers for reasons related to domestic violence and follow the example of New Zealand, which provides domestic violence survivors 10 days of paid leave to seek safety and services.

Third, the government should train employee counselors, managers, and human resources personnel to support workers dealing with gender-based violence. And fourth, France should require French companies to prevent and address gender-based violence and harassment in their supply chains under its 2017 due diligence law.

The French Parliament can take a strong stand against gender-based violence. Alongside ratification, it should include workplace protections for domestic violence survivors in the pending "Accelerating economic and professional equality" bill and address prevention and training in the "Strengthening health prevention at work" bill.

As France prepares to host a global conference on gender equality on June 30, it should lead by example and adopt national reforms alongside ratification of the treaty.

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