JAKARTA (Joint Press Release): Prevention of harassment in the workplace is both an international and national concern. It is internationally agreed that sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination and is recognized as a violation of human rights. Sexual harassment at work can happen to any worker at any workplace—offices, factories, plantations and farms, small and large enterprises.
Sexual harassment affects employees, employers and the society as a whole. In 2006, the Equal Opportunity Committee of the United States noted a drastic increase of 100 percent in sexual harassment cases, reaching 12,025 cases. Research has clearly shown that workplaces in which harassment is permitted tend to have sharply falling productivity. Sexual harassment leads to increased absenteeism, high turnover of staff and loss of valuable employees and to a poor public image of the company.
In response to this problem, the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration, in collaboration with the United Nations, will conduct a one-day Seminar, titled “Preventing Sexual Harassment at the Workplace”, on 23 November 2010 at Borobudur Hotel, Jakarta. The Seminar will be opened by the Minister of Manpower and Transmigration, Muhaimin Iskandar, Minister of Women’s Empowerment and Children Protection, Linda Agum Gumelar, Chairman of Indonesian Employers’ Association (Apindo), Sofyan Wanandi, Chairman of All Unions Confederation (KSPSI), Mathias Tambing, and Country Director of the ILO in Indonesia, Peter van Rooij.
The Seminar is designed to find ways to promote a better workplace environment through the prevention of and management of sexual harassment at the workplace and will introduce the draft Guidelines on Prevention and Management of Sexual Harassment at the Workplace. It is necessary to encourage prevention and common action to avoid discriminative treatment at the workplace which also has adverse impacts on work productivity. Attention to workplace harassment has traditionally been focused on physical violence/harassment.
The seminar is also aimed at raising awareness and understanding concerning harassment in the workplace
and seeks inputs from workers, employers, and government officials for the design of future preventive
measures. The seminar will present the international and national experiences on the harassment at the workplace.
“Silence or a lack of complaints does not mean sexual harassment does not occur. Many instances of workplace violence occur out of sight of the general public, in one-on-one situations, resulting in emotional rather than physical injury to the victim, and produce extensive costs both for employers and for the victim. Often victims have limited protection from unfair dismissal and have few alternative job options,” said Peter van Rooij, Country Director of the ILO in Indonesia.
Meanwhile, Myra M Hanartani, Director General of Industrial Relations and Social Security, Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration (MoMT), admitted that increasing attention has been paid to the extent and severity of all forms of workplace harassment, including by workers, trade unions, employers, government authorities and experts. “It is therefore for the government to analyse the full range of causes which generate workplace harassment and a variety of interventions that can be applied to promote effective prevention of harassment at the workplace,” she said.
The variety of behaviour which may be covered under the general rubric of harassment at work is extensive. Where this behaviour borderlines with acceptable behaviour is often vague, and depends on the perception of different contexts and cultures. This makes providing a single definition of workplace harassment a significant challenge.
Harassment at the workplace is quite difficult to handle when no grievance procedure at the enterprise related to harassment has been established and understood by workers and employers and when the victims are hesitant to discuss their case. Therefore, it is necessary to encourage prevention and common action to avoid discriminative treatment at the workplace.
The two principal types of sexual harassment in the workplace are ‘quid pro quo’ harassment and the creation of a hostile working environment. Quid pro quo (meaning ‘this for that’) harassment refers to a demand by a person in authority, such as supervisor, for sexual favours in order to obtain or maintain certain job benefits—a wage increase, promotion, training opportunity, a transfer or a job. It forces workers to choose between giving in to sexual demands or losing employment benefits. This type of sexual harassment is also referred to as ‘sexual blackmail.”
The second type of sexual harassment can poison the work environment and impact on the job performance of workers. In more recent years, however, new evidence has been emerging on the impact and harm caused by non-physical violence, often referred to as psychological violence/harassment, which includes bullying, mobbing, coercion, verbal abuse and sexual harassment.
The resource persons for the seminar will consist of specialists from the ILO’s labour standard department, the National Commission for Women, and representatives from trade unions, employers, the Ministry of Manpower and the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment. The seminar will be attended by 150 participants from various organizations, including academia and the media and is supported by ILO, UNFPA and UNIFEM.
For further information contact:
Director of Working Norms, Welfare and Discrimination Analyst
Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration
Tel.: +6221 391 3112 ext. 135
Gita F. Lingga
Tel.: +6221 391 3112 ext. 115