EWL News

EWL gives recommendations to tackle sexual harassment at conference on Equality in the Work Place

[Brussels, 09 March 2012] President of the European Women’s Lobby Brigitte Triems spoke at the conference “Equality in the Work Place – Zero Tolerance on gender-based discrimination and harassment in Europe” hosted by the British organization Public Policy Exchange in Brussels on Tuesday 06 March.

To date, the EU addresses the gender-based discrimination and harassment at the work place through a 2002 directive on equal treatment. Brigitte Triems stressed the need to go beyond the current non-discrimination approach to sexual harassment at work by incorporating it in a broader strategy which addresses all forms of violence against women. Among her concrete proposals she called for a European Year on Violence Against Women, as a way of bringing the phenomenon to the European public’s attention. She concluded that an effective European strategy should build on the six P’s: Prevention, Protection, Service Provision, Prosecution, Partnership and Policy.

Johanna Nelles from the Council of Europe presented the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence. This new international human rights instrument comprises procisions on sexual harassment at work. Before it can enter into force at least ten countries must ratify this Convention. To date only 18 countries (out of 48 Council of Europe members) have signed the Convention and we are still waiting for the first ratification.

The expert contributions at Tuesday’s event made it crystal clear that not only is gender-based discrimination and harassment an under-researched issue in Europe it is also a problem for which it is extremely difficult to generate funding and public awareness. The knowledge we have on this sensitive topic is old (most is from the 1990’es) moreover it is mostly carried out outside of the EU. The lack of even basic data makes it impossible to assess the extent of this form of violence against women in Europe.

From for example US studies we know, however, that it entails great human end economic costs and that non-discrimination in the work place increases productivity, heightens satisfaction of employees and clients and is an advantage for society at large.

Therefore EWL is happy that the issue is brought back on the agenda at an international conference, but we are concerned about the level of political will to follow-up on the conference with concrete action. We regret that the Commission did not show up to give their much anticipated contribution in the panel. We call on the European Commission to actively and regularly provide assessments of the country level implementation of the EU directive to monitor the progress. We also want the commission to play its part among the relevant political and institutional actors in ensuring that the legally binding standards of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence become a reality amidst its ratification by the EU.

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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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