Ratify labour convention to curb workplace violence and harassment

Photograph: Patrizia Kramer/Flickr

In conjunction with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and 16 days of activism, the Labour Law Reform Coalition, a coalition of 58 trade unions and NGOs, urges the Ministry of Human Resources, the Malaysian Trades Unions Congress (MTUC) and the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) to support ratification of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 190 (on volence and harassment) in the next international labour conference as a mean to curb violence and harassment in the world of work.

The 108th international labour conference adopted Convention 190 in Geneva on 21 June 2019. As a member of the ILO, it is the responsibility of Malaysian government to present the convention and seek adoption in Parliament. It is also the duty of tripartite members to comply with their international obligations.

We call upon the Ministry of Human Resources and the MEF to review its position in the last international labour conference. The ministry has taken a position to abstain while the MEF voted against the convention.

The MTUC also voted against the convention, but after that, the former MTUC president, Abdul Halim Mansor, said it was a misunderstanding, and the MTUC would support ratification of the convention. We hope the new leadership of the MTUC will continue to commit to the agenda.

It is important to note that sexual harassment and violence in Malaysia are on the rise. According to the Women’s Aid Organisation, the police received fewer than 100 reports of sexual harassment in 2001, but the number significantly increased to more than 338 in 2016. There were 1,682 rape cases in 2017; many sexual assaults at workplaces are unreported, as predators are often in a higher position and because of a victim-blaming environment.

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Ratification of ILO Convention 190 will show the tripartite members’ commitment to ensure gender equality and protect women’s rights in the country, which is in line with Article 8 of the Federal Constitution (equality) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw), ratified by the Malaysian government.

In addition, the Labour Law Reform Coalition proposes that the government include a code of practice on the prevention and eradication of sexual harassment in the workplace in the upcoming Employment Act amendments to ensure it is enforceable.

We also support enactment of a stand-alone Sexual Harassment Act to eliminate harassment against men and women.

We urge the Ministry of Human Resources, the MTUC and the MEF to hold social dialogues with the Labour Law Reform Coalition on ratification of Convention 190.

Let’s work together to eliminate gender discrimination in Malaysia.

N Gopalkishnam and Irene Xavier are co-chairpersons of the Labour Law Reform Coalition

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