Ground-breaking global treaty will improve protections for workers experiencing domestic violence

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On June 21, 2019, International Labour Organization member governments, worker representatives and employers’ organizations voted overwhelmingly to adopt the ILO Convention of Violence and Harassment. Following two years of negotiations, the landmark vote sets new international standards for ending violence and harassment in the workplace.

After the adoption of the treaty, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said the new standards recognize the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment. ”The next step is to put these protections into practice, so that we create a better, safer, decent, working environment for women and men. I am sure that, given the co-operation and solidarity we have seen on this issue, and the public demand for action, we will see speedy and widespread ratifications and action to implement.” The Convention will enter into force 12 months after two member States have ratified it.

Human Rights Watch senior researcher Rothna Begum said, “the women who bravely spoke up about their #MeToo abuses at work have made themselves heard at this negotiation, and their voices are reflected in these important new protections.” Cabrera Balleza, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, told reporters the adoption of the ILO Convention on Violence and Harassment is a watershed moment in the struggle to eliminate violence against women in the workplace.

The new ILO convention and recommendation affirm the rights of every worker to be safe at work from violence and harassment, including domestic violence. The convention defines violence and harassment as “a range of unacceptable behaviors and practices, or threats thereof, whether a single occurrence or repeated, that aim at, result in, or are likely to result in physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm, and includes gender-based violence and harassment.” The treaty recognizes that violence and harassment go beyond just physical violence.

Governments that ratify the treaty will be required to develop national laws prohibiting workplace violence and to take preventative measures including information campaigns and development of workplace violence policies. The treaty also obligates governments to monitor the issue and provide complaint mechanisms, witness protection measures and victim services to protect victims and people who report from reprisals. To mitigate the effects of domestic violence, the standards recommend flexible working arrangements and leave for domestic violence survivorsw

“The #MeToo movement showed us just how pervasive violence and harassment is in many workplaces, but now we have a treaty that spells the beginning of the end to such cruelty,” said Begum. “Governments should now ratify this treaty and seek to make a safe world of work a reality.”

“When women know they are safe, they will be more productive, more inspired and more motivated. That would be beneficial to everyone — to the women themselves, to the labor movement, to the business sector and to governments,” said Cabrera Balleza.