In June 2019, at the centennial Conference of the International Labour Organization (ILO), history was made with the adoption of a new international treaty to end violence and harassment in the world of work. The Violence and Harassment Convention, ILO Convention 190 (C190), defines for the first time what is violence and harassment, recognises the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment, and places special emphasis on addressing gender-based violence and harassment (GBVH).
Together C190 and its accompanying Recommendation 206 (R206) are powerful tools to improve the working lives of millions of women, especially those most marginalised and working in insecure, low-paid, unsafe jobs and in the informal economy. The Convention applies to every sector and all workers irrespective of their contractual status. It recognises that dealing with discrimination and promoting equality, health and safety are integral to addressing violence and harassment. It urges governments to address the unequal power relations that often lie at the root of GBVH.
The Convention expands the concept of the world of work beyond the immediate physical workplace, covering situations linked to or arising out of work, such as work-related trips, commuting to/from work or social activities and ‘cyber-bullying’, and it demands that violence and harassment involving third parties – whether they are clients, customers, patients, or members of the public – be considered and addressed. And it requires action to mitigate the impact of domestic violence in the world of work, providing a lifeline to victims of domestic violence who might otherwise lose their job or be forced to choose between income and safety.
The adoption of the C190 and R206 is the fruit of many years of struggle by the global trade union movement, and – especially – its women members. It is a trade union response to the resurgence of patriarchy and attendant rise in misogyny, racism, bigotry and intolerance, which also pervade our world of work.
If applied, ratified and enforced, these instruments can change lives. Trade unions, feminist organisations, women’s and human rights organisations will continue their alliance to make sure this happens without delay.