Following the global #metoo movement, the International Labour Conference has adopted the Convention Concerning the Elimination of Violence and Harassment in the World of Work 2019 at its 108th session in Geneva.
In its preamble, the Convention recognises that violence and harassment in workplace is a human rights violation, a threat to equal opportunities and it adversely affects a person’s psychological, physical and sexual health, dignity, and family as well as social environment. It places special emphasis on gender-based violence, acknowledging that harassment and violence affects women and girls disproportionately and prevents them from accessing, remaining and advancing in the labour market. The Convention advocates for an inclusive, integrated and gender-responsive approach to tackling and ending gender-based violence and harassment at work and recognises the intersectional and multi-faceted forms of discrimination.
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 provisions of the Convention protect all working persons irrespective of their contractual status. It also encompasses workers from both formal and informal sectors and applies to conducts in the course of work or arising out of it including work-related trips, social gatherings, commuting to and from work and work-related communication both physically and through information and communication media.
As a ratifying party to the Convention, a State is directed to implement, through national laws and policies, the right to equality and non-discrimination in employment and occupation- being particularly sensitive to female workers or other vulnerable groups. In pursuance of such policies, workplace policies on violence and harassment must be introduced and employees must be provided with necessary training for their implementation. Member States must also ensure effective remedy for violence and harassment by including necessary measures including dispute resolution mechanisms within and outside the workplace, special courts and tribunals and legal, social and medical support. Privacy and confidentiality of the complainant, witness and other involved parties must also be ensured.
Although the Convention addresses gender and sex-based violence and discrimination and includes “other vulnerable groups” as a consideration in policymaking, it makes no express mention of the LGBTQ community, despite the insistence of campaigners which means the Convention inclines to the heteronormativity that women rights narrative is inclined to.