An international standard on workplace violence and harassment is being implemented for the first time, and it’s thanks to the #MeToo movement.
Since the start of Hollywood’s #MeToo movement in 2017, there has been a global focus on ending sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. But it’s not just in the entertainment industry where sexism is rife, as news stories continue to prove how prevalent the problem is in all fields.
Earlier this month, we shared women’s disturbing stories about women who have experienced difficult male colleagues in the office. Aluna Francis, from electro group Aluna George, has also spoken out about the sexual assault against her by a music industry figure. And a recent investigation in The Telegraph reported that a number of Topshop owner Phillip Green’s female employees couldn’t speak out about the harassment they faced at work because of non-disclosure agreements.
As the battle to eliminate such misconduct continues, Stylist’s editor-in-chief Lisa Smoarski has joined Jess Phillips to call for an end to sexual harassment at work. And the Women and Equalities Committee have released a report recommending that NDAs should no longer be used to silence victims of abuse. Now, a breakthrough treaty by the International Labour Organization, proves an international effort to address the issue.
A global set of standards has been established to prevent, identify and provide redress in cases of gender-based violence and harassment. This means that millions of women around the world could very soon be legally protected in the workplace. With more than one in three countries currently lacking this legal protection, an estimated 235 women are unprotected – right now. But this treaty, which was decided on at last week’s UN labour agency’s annual conference - has been called a “milestone movement for women’s rights” and gender equality.
“There’s an obligation for governments to now ratify and implement this convention and for employers to prevent and remedy violence and harassment in a way that advances the human rights of women workers, and does so in consideration of their intersecting identities and broad range of work realities,” said Krishanti Dharmaraj, Rutgers University’s centre for women’s global leadership.
Explaining that factory workers will particularly benefit from the convention, the ILO’s workers’ group chair, Catelene Passchier, added: “Some of the worst violence and harassment occurs at the bottom of the supply chain where our clothes, food and technology are produced by low-paid, overwhelmingly female workers.”
She added: “They often work in factories where trade unions are banned. They urgently need the protection of this new labour standard. Now our challenge to governments is to ratify and implement the standard – and to employers to make sure their workplaces are safe places for women workers, free of violence and harassment.”
Rothna Begum, senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, who lobbied governments for stronger workplace protection, also said: “Many workers face violence not only in the four walls of an office or factory, but on their commutes to work, at social events, or while dealing with customers or other third parties. 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.”