Bangladeshi trade unions--Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation (SGSF) and Awaj Foundation have called on the government of Bangladesh to address the increase in gender-based violence and harassment (GBVH) at work linked to the COVID-19 pandemic by ratifying and implementing ILO Convention 190 (C190), the first global, binding treaty on ending violence and harassment in the world of work.
SGSF and Awaj Foundation further call on all employers to support ratification and adopt workplace policies to prevent GBVH at work, according to a statement issued recently.
“For too long women and men’s human rights have been violated in the workplace, and this convention will help create the legal and policy structure needed in Bangladesh to help workers fight back against this terrible form of injustice,” said Nazma Akter SGSF President and Founder of Awaj Foundation.
“Many unions and worker organizations around the world are pushing for gender equality, equal pay, and an end to gender-based violence and harassment, not just in the RMG sector, but in all sectors,” she said.
Adopted in June 2019, C190 is the first treaty that recognizes the fundamental right to a world of work free from violence and harassment. That right is under threat from the inequality, poverty and social instability caused by the pandemic, which leaves workers, particularly women and other marginalized workers, at increased risk of GBVH.
Measures to respond to the pandemic and provide emergency relief must address and prevent GBVH in the world of work, including the underlying issues of discrimination and poor working conditions that make so many workers vulnerable. C190 provides a powerful roadmap for how governments and employers can address the root causes of GBVH in the world of work and improve the lives of millions of workers.
C190 reflects the changing ways that work is performed by covering not just the worksite, but all GBVH linked to work, including work-related communications, and the commute to and from work. This is particularly relevant as the pandemic has changed work locations and setups, and workers report increased harassment online and increased sexual violence in public spaces like transport systems. Ratifying C190 would mean the government has to protect the entire world of work.
C190 recognizes how work is structured today, by protecting workers normally excluded from labor protections, including workers in non-standard work arrangements, in export processing zones and in the informal economy.
Workers in these precarious jobs have been disproportionately impacted by layoffs during the pandemic, and most do not qualify for unemployment benefits and emergency relief measures, making them particularly susceptible to pressure for sexual favors and other degrading treatment in order to keep their job. Ratifying C190 would ensure that the most vulnerable workers are protected.
It has never been more critical to confront GBVH at work and its impacts on gender equality and sustainable economic growth. Therefore, we call on Bangladesh to demonstrate its commitment to ending GBVH in the world of work by ratifying C190, and call on employers in Bangladesh to join us in supporting ratification and implementation.