International Women’s Day, celebrated by IUF affiliates, is again this year dedicated to combating violence against women in the workplace. It is also focused on the need to obtain, at the next International Labour Conference (ILC) in June 2019, an international convention, supplemented by a recommendation, which will give governments a legally-binding framework to enable them to act against and end this form of violence. The first discussion on the issue, which took place at the 2018 ILC, lead to a draft text that was satisfactory for IUF, despite the strong opposition voiced by the employers’ group. However, we must remain committed to maintaining what we have gained from this first discussion, because everything could be called into question in the next few months. The much-needed and long-awaited international tools are thus now within our grasp.
They will be the fruit of decades of union struggle to have gender-based violence in the workplace recognised as a social problem that is everyone’s business. These tools will support and strengthen the efforts of IUF and its affiliates, which have for years been negotiating commitments to prevent sexual violence with major transnational companies – whether in the agricultural sector, catering, food processing or recently in the hotel sector – but also the constant work carried out in the field by affiliates in all continents.
Gender-based violence in the workplace is the first obstacle to equality, yet remains one of the most tolerated. Regardless of our sex, gender identity and sexual orientation, origin, status, age or specific characteristics, we all have the right to work in an environment free of violence and harassment. Let’s support an international convention to end violence against women in the workplace!
International Women’s Day traces its origins to March 8, 1857 when textile workers on New York’s Lower East Side demonstrated for their rights. On an international level it was launched in 1910 at the 2nd International Socialist Women’s Conference in Copenhagen and first celebrated in 1911 by millions of workers in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.
International women’s Day is a product of the socialist labour movement, and it remains as true as ever that union membership is the best defense against discrimination. The most important fight is for the right for all workers to join and be represented by a trade union.
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