New instrument on gender-based violence and harassment at work

ESCR-Net celebrates the adoption of the ILO Convention 190 and its supplementary recommendation on violence and harassment in the world of work.
Publish Date: 
Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The world was watching as the International Labour Organization (ILO), on its 100th anniversary, responded to the voices of millions of women around the world by adopting the first legally binding treaty to address gender-based violence and harassment in the world of work.

In ILO Convention 190, states parties, as well as organizations of workers and employers, recognize that violence and harassment in the workplace is a human rights violation. The instrument, and its supplementary recommendation, enshrines a broad definition of “worker” and “the world of work”  to address the risks being faced by women and girls in many contexts, including the informal economy. It further recognizes the effects of domestic violence on the world of work, acknowledging that gender-based violence and harassment disproportionately affects women and girls and establishing the obligation of states to develop policies with an inclusive, integrated, intersectional approach, which is critical to addressing multiple forms of discrimination and unequal gender-based power relations. The new standards also contain protection and prevention measures, as well as enforcement mechanisms and remedies.

The Convention and Recommendation were adopted during the recent International Labour Conference-ILC (Geneva, June -21, 2019), informed by the robust campaigning and cross-movement solidarity of trade unions, workers associations, feminist movements, women’s rights organizations and a diverse range of advocates around the world.

We congratulate all movements and organizations that advocated for the adoption of the instrument and encourage further solidarity to push for the ratification and implementation of the instrument.

We encourage states and employers to take innovative actions to fulfill the content and spirit of this instrument, which has the potential to make a difference for millions of women.

Collective action around the adoption process of the ILO instrument

The ESCR-Net Women and ESCR Working Group joined to this global effort, collaborating around:

The MayDay Campaign

Trade unions and workers associations that are members of the Women and ESCR Working Group pronounced their support for strong, binding standards on violence and harassment in a May Day campaign that called on states to adopt a robust convention and recommendation.

Letter to key UN Mechanisms

Spearheaded by ESCR-Net Member, the Center for Women´s Global Leadership-CWGL, the Women and ESCR Working Group endorsed a letter sent to three UN mechanisms: the CEDAW Committee, the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice, and the Special Rapporteur on violence against women. The letter encouraged the above-mentioned mechanisms to call on Member States to adopt a strong ILO instrument to protect women’s human rights in line with existing protections under international law, in the face of attempts to weaken the convention.

Following ESCR-Net’s letter, the Platform of independent United Nations and regional expert mechanisms on violence against women and women’s rights released a joint statement during the negotiations about the instrument at the ILC where they called on all States to safeguard existing standards on sexual harassment as a human rights violation.

Common positions and collective statement on the drafted instrument

With the leadership of a strong group of members from the Women and ESCR working group, ESCR-Net adopted a collective statement containing common positions on the drafted ILO instrument. We called for the instrument to be adopted as a legally binding convention, supplemented by a recommendation, that would enable it to effectively address violence faced by all women workers.  Members called, in particular, for the instrument to recognize that violence and harassment in the world of work is a human rights violation, promote substantive equality, include an intersectional approach and ensure that the adoption of the instrument is followed by ratification and implementation.

Congratulations to those members who led in drafting this collective statement: Center for Women´s Global Leadership—CWGL, Legal Resources Center—LRC (South Africa), International Women's Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific—IWRAW-AP (Malaysia), Unión de Trabajadoras Afrodescendientes del Servicio Doméstico—UTRASD (Colombia), Fundación Promoción Humana (Argentina), Association for Emancipation, Solidarity and Equality of Women (Macedonia), AWAJ Foundation (Bangladesh) and Instituto de Formación Femenina Integral (Bolivia).

Take Action!

  • Disseminate this news and support or initiate a ratification campaign. Let other women and organizations know about these new standards to protect women workers and start articulating efforts towards the ratification and implementation of the Convention and Recommendation in your country. Continue to share and use #ILOendGBV and #StopGBVatWork. Explore the campaigns 16 Days of Activism and STOP gender-based violence at work!, and use their materials.
  • Join us for further collective action and analysis to push for ratification and implementation. ESCR-Net will be one of the co-organizers of the Global Dialogue on Ending Gender-Based Violence in the World of Work, an initiative conducted by the Center for Women´s Global Leadership. Planned for November 2019, the Global Dialogue is envisioned to be a space for direct advocacy with governments to ratify and implement the Convention and Recommendation. 
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