Gender-based violence at work is a violation of human rights and a major barrier to decent work and the dignity, safety and security of workers. It exists because of unequal power relations between women and men and it perpetuates inequalities at work, in the family and across society.
A growing number of countries have adopted legislation on sexual harassment at work. While laws may exist, factories and farms producing goods in global supply chains are often based in countries where laws are not consistently implemented or effectively enforced, and where there is low capacity for effective factory inspection. Lack of structured human resource policies, low levels of trade union representation and limited awareness about sexual harassment are also traits that can be found particularly in the lowest tiers of global supply chains.
Many large companies selling consumer goods such as clothing, footwear, fresh food and flowers, and electronics outsource production to factories and farms, often in countries with different levels of economic or social development. Globalization of production offers an important source of job creation, particularly for women, but these jobs do not necessarily result in decent work. Tragic events such as the Rana Plaza accident and recent research (ITUC, 2016; LeBaron & Lister, 2016) have shed light on the risks and decent work deficits still faced by many workers in factories and farms involved in global production. Gender-based violence and sexual harassment, particularly in the form of violence and verbal abuse against women workers, are common, under-reported and inadequately addressed problems, most frequently found in sectors where women represent the majority of factory or farmworkers. Tackling these problems requires appropriate law enforcement systems, effective social dialogue, better awareness among employers, practical workplace initiatives, and strategies to reach and give voice to those workers who are most affected.
The practical strategies suggested in this ITCILO Resource Kit aim to facilitate the implementation of legislation, while also forging new approaches to addressing gender-based violence in the workplace.