No one should have to risk their safety or dignity to put food on the table. Yet every day, workers around the world are subjected to sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence.
Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is a fundamental violation of human rights. It is an expression of gender-based discrimination and unequal power relations between men and women. GBV in the world of work includes, but is not limited to, sexual violence in all of its forms, including sexual harassment as it is legally defined, as well as stalking behaviours, assault and rape, trafficking, coercion, and restrictions on freedom of movement that occur while at work or on the way to and from work.
While GBV impacts all workers, women suffer at a much higher rate than men. Men can and do experience GBV in the world of work, particularly relating to sexual identity and gender expression. Transgender individuals in particular face high levels of violence. This reflects the fact that GBV stems from a social and political hierarchy that values men and enforces a traditional and rigid definition of masculinity as an expression of power and prestige. There is a link between GBV, the manner in which women are de-valued in the workplace and how some men are socialised to feel entitled to women’s bodies and expect admiration and compliance.
Everyone has a role to play in breaking down these harmful stereotypes and creating equitable, respectful communities and when it comes to addressing how this issue plays out in the workplace, unions have a unique and powerful role to play. At base, gender-based violence in the world of work including unwanted touching, sexual comments, requests for sexual favours and even sexual assault is not about sex, but about power. Unions are dedicated to shifting power relationships and creating more equitable and fair workplaces.
Economic insecurity, particularly dangerous/high risk and low-wage employment, makes workers more vulnerable to harassment. Women often make up the majority of part-time and temporary workers in most countries, as well as the majority of low-paid workers and those earning minimum wages. Many of these workers live from pay-cheque to pay-cheque and cannot afford even a brief break in employment, making them less likely to report abuse.
Confronting violence and harassment at work requires addressing the underlying conditions that drive abuse, including worker organizing to win living wages, job security and protection from retaliation.
What is MISA doing to end violence at workplaces?
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