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End Harassment at Work

Gender-based violence remains one of the most tolerated violations of workers’ human rights. 35% 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. Sexual harassment experienced by women workers is the most reported form of violence.

Who is at risk

Industries such as Electronics, Toys, Entertainment, Garment / Fast-Fashion and Agriculture are all repeat offenders when it comes to dangerous and undignified working conditions. These industries are often based in lower income countries, where employment laws offer far less protection against violence and harassment. And low-paid women workers face these conditions first and foremost. But these industries do not exist in isolation, the items they produce are sold to consumers here in Ireland. This is a global problem.

Yet, there is still no law at the international level to eradicate violence and harassment in the world of work. A 2018 World Bank report found that in 59 countries, women are not legally protected from workplace sexual harassment. Therefore, this potentially affects over 500 million women around the globe.

The facts on harassment at work

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

The risk of violence and harassment is even greater for young women workers, especially in export processing zones:

  • In Ecuador’s export-oriented flower production industry, more than 55% of workers have suffered some form of sexual harassment. And for younger workers aged 20-24 the figure is as high as 70%.
  • More than 60% of women garment workers in Bangladesh have been intimidated or threatened with violence at work.
  • In Kenya, a study among 400 workers in tea growing and processing revealed that more than 90% had experienced or observed sexual abuse at their workplace.

To address the high prevalence of Gender Based Violence increasingly revealed to be perpetrated against women at work, ActionAid and partners are demanding the International Labour Organisation agree to a Convention and Recommendation against violence and harassment in the workplace.

At the International Labour Conference this June, governments, unions, and employer organisations have an opportunity to agree to a Convention and Recommendation on “Ending violence and harassment in the world of work.”

This could protect millions of workers around the world from violence and harassment. Workers who make our clothes, toys and electronics, who pick the flowers we buy and produce the fruit we eat.

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