BANGKOK, Thailand (ILO News) – Nearly 100 workers, employers and government representatives from Thailand addressed the new ILO convention (C190) on tackling workplace violence and harassment. Participants discussed potential ways forward for Thailand to be free from violence and harassment in the world of work.
“Sexual harassment is not new, but what is new, is now we have the first international convention on eliminating harassment and violence at work” declared H.E. Mr Pirkka Tapiola, Ambassador of the European Union to Thailand. The one-day “Conference on Violence and Harassment Convention No. 190: Building Awareness and Identifying Ways Forward for Thailand”, was organized jointly by International Labour Organization and UN Women Safe and Fair programme under the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative to eliminate violence against women and girls.
ILO Convention No. 190, globally adopted in 2019, is the first convention on violence and harassment in the world of work. The convention not only guarantees a world of work free from violence and harassment, but extends protection beyond employees solely defined under national law. This includes all workers despite their contractual status, in both formal and informal sectors, and workers who are volunteers, apprentices or seeking jobs. Together with highlighting gender-based violence, the convention specifically emphasizes on protecting minority groups who are disproportionately vulnerable to violence and harassment at work. The Convention also places an importance on the protection of third parties – whether they are clients, customers, patients, or members of the public.
Tackling workplace violence and harassment in Thailand
The ILO - UN Women Handbook on Eliminating Violence Against Women was discussed by Safe and Fair programme’s EVAW Specialist Robin Mauney, who reiterated that the workplace is a key entry point for combatting violence against women and gender inequality more broadly. Sexual harassment, especially in the world of work, remains the most reported form of sexual violence across the globe. Therefore, combatting violence and harassment in the world of work, as outlined in Convention No. 190, is pivotal for ensuring decent work and gender equality across Thailand.
“The threat of violence and sexual harassment against women prevent them from participating in labour force, and that really reduces the productivity of the country”, highlighted Ms. Deirdre Boyd, UN Resident Coordinator, Thailand. “There is both a human and economic cost to sexual harassment and violence in the workplace”, added Ms Deepa Bharathi, Chief Technical Advisor for Safe and Fair programme. “For victims, the consequences of sexual violence extends beyond the physical act itself, from added financial burdens from job losses to facing cultural stigma from their peers. Furthermore, there are tremendous economic deficits, including millions of lost revenue, when industries do not tackle workplace harassment and violence. These costs can be related to sickness absenteeism, reduced productivity and additional replacement and retirement costs on behalf of employers.”
The next step
Participants engaged in fruitful discussion on the obstacles of gender norms and expectations, from performance roles at work to legal implications, in fulfilling zero-tolerance for workplace violence and harassment. The ILO and its stakeholders have taken a pivotal step in discussing how to make Thailand’s world of work more compliant to Convention No. 190. Regarding active step towards the ratification, State Enterprise Workers’ Relation Confederation (SERC), the ILO’s constituent, is leading the global ITUC campaign in Thailand for ratification of Convention No. 190. To echo Mr Pakorn Nilprapunt, the Secretary-General of the Office of the Council of State Thailand, “law is not the final stage” and active steps must be taken to overcome cultural and gender stigmas in ensuring a world of work free from violence and harassment.
As long as people are faced with workplace violence and harassment, decent work remains for the few rather than the many. Mr Jarunchai Korsripitakkul, Inspector, Department of Labour Protection and Welfare, Ministry of Labour concluded that “the relevant laws may have to be revised and strengthen in accordance with the recent trend".
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