US Human Rights Network Blog

US Human Rights Network Blog



New ILO treaty to end gender-based violence and harassment in the world of work

Jun 27, 2019

The US Human Rights Network is pleased to announce that the International Labor Organization (ILO) adopted a groundbreaking Convention and Recommendation on ending violence and harassment against women and men in the world of work at its centenary International Labor Conference (ILC) in Geneva last week.

The Network has been partnering with the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) to support and amplify work on the ground to end violence in the world of work, particularly through the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign. USHRN worked with CWGL to encourage the adoption of a legally-binding convention supplemented by a recommendation including:

  1. The recognition of violence and harassment against women in the world of work as a human rights violation.
  2. A broad definition of “worker” to encompass all women workers, including those who are over-represented in unpaid, underpaid, and/or informal jobs.
  3. A comprehensive understanding of “the world of work” that can provide protection beyond the workplace, such as the commute or even online.
  4. A wide scope that ensures protection to those most vulnerable and include intimate partner violence.
  5. Strong language to recognize and address the gendered nature of violence and discrimination faced by women workers.

Freedom from harassment and gender-based violence in the world of work is a human right, and one that is systematically violated in the United States. Yet, none of the ILO conventions adopted in the past 100 years have focused on gender-based violence, until now. 

The legally-binding instrument adopted at last week’s ILC addresses gender-based violence and harassment in the world of work. The vital new Convention establishes minimum standards to prevent, identify, and provide redress in cases of gender-based violence in the world of work. Our partners at CWGL remark, “It is a milestone for women’s rights from the efforts of women workers themselves, and a necessary step to ensure women’s right to work in addition to decent conditions of work, and ultimately to achieve equality.”

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.” It applies to violence and harassment in public and private workplaces, and during journeys between home and the workplace. It covers public- and private-sector employment, as well as formal and informal work. 

USHRN joins CWGL in now calling upon States to ratify this new Convention and ensure national implementation that is compliant with existing human rights standards as expressed in the new convention, international treaties and regional instruments in order for all women to achieve dignity at work.

To learn about CWGL and other Network partners' advocacy efforts on the new ILO Instrument and the standard-setting process, please visit our blog post on the issue.

Read CWGL’s press release here.