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EWL calls on the adoption of the international standards to end violence against women in the world of work

[Brussels, 10 June 2019] The European Women’s Lobby calls on governments and employers to support the International Convention on ending violence and harassment in the world of work with a strong women and intersectional perspective.

This June governments, employers and trade unions are negotiating an international law that aims at creating a consistent international approach to addressing violence and harassment in the world of work with a strong gender perspective that acknowledges that women are disproportionally affected by this violence. From 10-21 June, the International Labour Organization (ILO) is meeting in Geneva to agree on the final text of the Convention, that should be supplemented by a recommendation providing clear guidance for its implementation. This convention responds to the longstanding feminist demand of women-sections in the Trade Unions and other women organisations to have international standards aiming at eradicating violence and harassment against women workers the world of work. The International Trade Unions Confederation (ITUC) campaign on stop gender-based violence at work has been instrumental to ensure that the provisions in the current draft of the Convention are comprehensive and have a strong focus on gender-based violence against women and an inclusive and an intersectional approach. The current draft of the Convention also requests to address the impacts of intimate partner violence in the world of work by governments and social partners.

There is not a single area in any woman’s life where she is not exposed to the threat or reality of acts of male violence. Male violence against women knows no geographical boundaries, no age limit, no class, race or cultural distinctions. It is manifested in multiple forms and involves a wide variety of perpetrators from intimate partners, work colleagues, employers and acquaintances, to strangers and institutional actors. According to statistics, 35 per cent of women – 818 million women globally – over the age of 15 have experienced sexual or physical violence at home, in their communities or in the workplace. As the survey developed by the Fundamental Rights Agency showed, 62 million women in the EU (one in three) have experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15 while more than 1 in 2 women have experienced sexual harassment. For women in top management position, this figures goes up to one in four women who reported having experienced sexual harassment at work.

All forms of violence against women aim to silence women and maintain them in a subordinate place. Despite this, today there is an unprecedented mobilisation of women’s rights activists, advocates and allies breaking the silence about this human rights’ violation. All the movements like #MeToo #BalanceTonPorc #QuellaVoltaChe #Cuéntalo continue to grow and shape our understanding of the scale of the epidemic of violence against women in all walks and sectors of life, and especially in the public sphere and work-related places. Women organisations have been key in bringing a far great understanding about the endemic insidious impact of violence on all aspects of our lives.

Violence against women is clearly linked to a culture of sexism in our societies, coupled with indirect forms of violence against women such as women’s poverty, women’s economic dependence, gender pay and pension gaps, women’s unequal participation in the public sphere, etc. Furthermore, certain women face a greater risk of violence because of motives fueled by sexism as well as racism, xenophobia, ableism, ageism, and other forms of discrimination.

Support ILO Convention violence harrassment world of work

Any action to put an end to violence and harassment in the world of work should therefore consist of a comprehensive and intersectional set of standards that recognises that women are disproportionately affected by this violence; and that is a human rights violation, cause and consequence of prevailing gender inequalities in the world of work and other social spheres.

Violence against women in the world of work is one of the few forms of gender-based violence addressed legally by the European Union (EU) considered as a form of discrimination1. However, we call on the EU to develop a comprehensive and legal framework to ensure that all forms of violence and harassment against women, including violence in the world of work, are fully recognised not only as a form of discrimination, but also as human rights violation cause and consequence of the inequality between women and men.

Putting an end to all forms of violence against women and girls has to be intrinsically linked to the commitment made by the European Union and all its Member States to achieve gender equality and promote women’s rights, a fundamental and founding value of the EU, as stated in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union and in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.

Governments, employers and trade unions worldwide have the due diligence to ensure the right of women to live a life free from violence while they are in work-related situations. Politics is about people and about impacting people’s lives. This is why, at the negotiations happening in Geneva theses weeks, all the different parties at the table should be taking into account that while they speak thousands of women in the world are being or at risk of becoming victims of violence in work related situations. Just a couple of weeks ago, Veronica (32 years old), employee of an international transport company in Spain, committed suicide triggered by the harassment and abused she suffered from her work colleagues who illegally disseminated sexual images in social media platforms without her consent. The memory of all the women victims and survivors of violence need to be honoured and be a strong call for action towards the adoption of this ILO Convention.

Women want to be able to work in a safe environment free from violence and fear. They call for comprehensive preventative measures to be in place as well as access to support services, access to justice, reparation and the end of impunity of perpetrators. For all these reasons, the European Women’s Lobby the ITUC Campaign and calls on all EU Governments and social partners to swiftly adopt a comprehensive ILO Convention and a Recommendation on ending violence and harassment in the world of work at the current ILO summit.

1 EU Directive 2002/73 (recast in 2006) on ‘Equal treatment between women and men as regards access to employment, vocation training, promotion and working conditions’

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EWL event "Progress towards a Europe free from all forms of male violence" to mark the 10th aniversary of the Istanbul Convention, 12 May 2021.

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