• Annual meeting of the ILO will take place to discuss whether to move forward in the standard-setting process for a new potential instrument on violence against men and women in work.
  • Like other ILO Conventions, countries could then ratify this and be held responsible for adhering to the rules outlines.
  • Fair Wear Foundation has outlined a number of recommendations ahead of the meeting.
In garment factories across India, Bangladesh and Indonesia, sexual violence and harassment is widespread and can range from verbal and physical abuse to sexual harassment and rape, according to Fair Wear Foundation and CNV Internationaal

In garment factories across India, Bangladesh and Indonesia, sexual violence and harassment is widespread and can range from verbal and physical abuse to sexual harassment and rape, according to Fair Wear Foundation and CNV Internationaal

A number of recommendations have been set out for the International Labour Organization (ILO) ahead of a meeting to devise a standard for the prevention of violence against men and women working in the global garment supply chain.

At this year's annual meeting of the International Labour Organization, the International Labour Conference (ILC), a decision is expected to be made whether to move forward in the standard-setting process for a new potential instrument on violence against men and women in the world of work. If it moves forward, the standard could result in either a binding or non-binding international law providing rules and guidance on violence and harassment at work.

Like other ILO Conventions, countries could then ratify this and be held responsible for adhering to the rules' outlines, according to Fair Wear Foundation.

In preparation for the decision, the independent non-profit organisation has outlined its recommendations on how the issue of violence at work could be addressed in such an instrument in its report: 'Violence and harassment against women and men in the global garment supply chain'.

In garment factories across India, Bangladesh and Indonesia, sexual violence and harassment is widespread and can range from verbal and physical abuse to sexual harassment and rape, according to Fair Wear Foundation and CNV Internationaal. In Bangladesh, over 60% of female garment workers have been intimidated or threatened with violence at work.

In Fair Wear Foundation's survey of 658 women in 35 Indian and Bangladeshi factories, 75% said that regular verbal abuse occurred in their factory, most of which was sexually explicit.

"Fair Wear Foundation believes that eliminating workplace violence and harassment is the right and the smart thing to do. Victims of violence and harassment often experience damaging psychological and physical effects. This can also have a negative effect on workplace communications and the working environment, and in turn, on the productivity of a factory. For workers, it can result in stress, demotivation, decreased job satisfaction, lower productivity, compromised teamwork and job losses. What hurts employees, ultimately hurts businesses and communities," the Fair Wear Foundation says in its report.

Some of the Foundation's recommendations – informed by consultations with its country managers and stakeholders – include:

  • An ILO standard should provide a clear definition and a detailed framework for stronger laws, policies and practical workplace measures to tackle violence and harassment at work, with a strong emphasis on gender-based violence. Although many countries have laws on gender-based violence, implementation has been inconsistent, particularly in the context of the workplace and public spaces.
  • Clear and practical definitions of violence and harassment.
  • A strong emphasis on social dialogue.
  • Clear obligations for the introduction of occupational safety and health initiatives, which encompass risk prevention.
  • Workplace violence prevention programmes through collaboration between stakeholders.
  • Practical guidance and support for suppliers, for example, through training and functioning human resource policies.
  • A strong ILO standard on violence and harassment needs to show the interlinkages between violence and harassment and human rights. This includes firmly embodying the rights of all workers to freedom of association, the right to organise and to collective bargaining.
  • Building on the ILO Recommended Action to Increase the Voice of Women in Social Dialogue, there is a responsibility for companies to respect the key ILO Conventions that address freedom of association and collective bargaining as well as gender equality and non-discrimination, particularly Conventions Nos. 87, 98, 100, 111.
  • The future ILO standard should highlight the business benefits for companies, with reference to fundamental rights at work, and take a planned and systematic approach to addressing violence and harassment in human rights due diligence processes.