(Cao Phuong Linh, volunteer, CARE in Vietnam)
A Vietnamese version of the article was published by Dan Sinh newspaper on 15 June 2019.
Vietnam’s tripartite delegation is going to attend the final negotiation round of a new International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention in Geneva from 17 to 19 June 2019. This also marks the 108th International Labour Conference (ILC). Vietnam’s interest in this convention shows its commitment to the international labour standards. What is this convention about and what has Vietnam done to take part in it?
With movements such as #MeToo, #TimesUp, and survivors’ courage to stand up and denounce sexual harassment, the world, for the first time, has realised it needs a global agreement that is legally binding to end violence and harassment at work.
The Importance of the ILO Convention
Everyone in the world has the right to work in an environment that is free from violence and harassment. Despite sexual harassment in the workplace being an increasingly alarming issue, a third of the countries in the world do not have a law prohibiting sexual harassment at work, leaving nearly 235 million women vulnerable.
A survey in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in 2014 found that 87% of women asked confirmed that they had been sexually harassed in public places while 67% pedestrians did not offer any help. At schools, 11% of students from 30 high schools in Hanoi confirmed that they had been abused or sexually harassed. However, in contrast to the severity of the problem, very few people can clearly identify specific sexual harassment behaviour: 80% of the victims were not fully aware of forms of sexual harassment.
However, due to the non-existence of specific regulations and appropriate penalties on sexual harassment behaviours, combined with survivors’ insecurity and fear of retaliation, almost no individual has gone as far as making an official complaint. In fact, since sexual harassment was included in the legal framework in 2013, there has been no case of sexual harassment in the workplace being brought to court. In the absence of specific measures, sexual harassment will continue to be unreported and may risk becoming ‘acceptable’ in the public.
Against this backdrop, a strong and comprehensive global convention on ending violence and harassment.at workplace is crucially in need. Without a convention that legally binds governments, employers and workers’ organisations, violence and harassment will not stop here. Therefore, the introduction of the ILO’s new Convention on Ending Violence and Sexual Harassment in the World of Work (“the Convention”) is necessary to overcome the gaps in the international regulatory framework. It will also help set common standards that will guide Member States to improve their national laws to protect those who work.
Process and Vietnam’s interest
Four years ago, in 2015, the ILO initiated the process of drafting a new set of international labor standards on preventing violence and harassment at workplace. This new standard was put into the agenda for discussion at the 107th ILC in June 2018. In the first round of discussion, the majority of the Member states all agreed that a Convention and an Optional Protocol were needed. The second round of negotiations, also the last round to take place, is being held in ILC 2019, from June 10 to 21, 2019 in Geneva (Switzerland).
After years of consultation and adjustment, the current draft Convention consists of 10 pages, including 7 chapters with 13 articles. In particular, it expands very much the scope for the context of “violence”, “harassment”, “world of work” and “workers”. If the Convention text is to be agreed, the next steps will be the ratification, accession and internalisation of this international agreement in each Member State to ensure its enforcement effect. Vietnam’s interest in this new Convention represents Vietnam’s commitment to the global trend of labor and international integration.
Since late 2018, the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) and CARE in Vietnam co-chaired a series of talks about the Convention. The most recent one on 28 May 2019 continued to provide useful information about the process of drafting this new Convention. At the event, Ms. Le Kim Dung, CARE Country Director said the comprehensive language used in the Convention draft reflected the constantly changing realities of the labour market. Other participants echoed her, referencing the fact that many types of jobs have expanded beyond the physical buildings and the usual 8 hours of work.
In addition, CARE has helped increase public awareness about the topic of harassment in the workplace and the ILO Convention through campaigns such as #STOPsexualharassment, #InvestingInWomen, and # March4Women.
This June, we all expect the first ILO Convention in the history focusing on protecting workers from violence and harassment in the world of work to be adopted. By adopting this new ILO Convention, we have the right to hope for a better future for those who work in Vietnam and around the world, where they can work free from violence and harassment and where their dignity is respected and protected at anytime, anywhere.