Why an ILO Convention on Violence and Harassment at Work is needed

Both women and men experience violence and harassment in the world of work, but unequal status and power relations in society and at work often result in women being far more exposed to violence and harassment.

Gender-based violence remains one of the most tolerated violations of workers’ human rights. According to statistics, 35% of women over the age 15—meaning 818 million women globally—have experienced sexual or physical violence.


Violence against women is defined by the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (adopted December 1993), as ‘any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life’.

Gender-based violence (GBV) is violence that is directed against an individual or group of individuals based on their gender identity. GBV encompasses violence against women and girls as well as against men and boys, people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI), and other individuals who do not conform to dominant perceptions of gender.

Despite these numbers, there is still no international law that sets a baseline for taking action to eradicate violence and harassment in the world of work.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) is considering an international convention on ‘Violence and harassment, including sexual harassment, against Women and Men at Work’. The first discussion will take place at the ILO Conference in June 2018.

Janneke Bosman from CNV Internationaal: ‘It’s very important that we adopt an ILO standard to address gender-based violence in the workplace. It is an important step toward improving the working conditions of women worldwide. This could save millions of dollars on sick leave and hospital care, and could increase worker productivity. Not only would a standard benefit the workers, especially women workers, but it would also benefit employers and governments. Governments could achieve their goals on decent work, and employers’ image would be improved with regard to tackling issues of gender-based violence.’

FWF recognises the need for international conventions and laws that are put in place to ensure and support fair working conditions. An ILO standard would be a step towards ensuring that the changes are adopted and integrated worldwide. In 2018, FWF and its partners will work to support the ILO in making this decision by providing expertise and evidence in part based on FWF brands’ work in global garment supply chains.

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