Today is United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Around the globe, workers are saying “No” to violence against women.
Although we often limit discussions on violence against women to
domestic violence, it also is a human rights issue and a workplace
issue, experts say.
Millions of women work
in insecure, temporary, unsafe, underpaid and unpaid jobs. They are
subjected to sexual harassment, abuse and rape. According to the
International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC),
certain types of work situations increase these threats, such as when
women travel for their work or migrate to find work or are employed as
AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler says in a statement:
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Violence against women is a global problem that affects
women of all ages, ethnicities, races, nationalities and socioeconomic
backgrounds. It is also a workplace issue. Power imbalances in
workplaces and the precarious employment conditions of many women
increase their risk of being victims of sexual harassment, abuse and
At the same time, domestic violence and other gender-based violence
often impedes the ability of women to go to work and earn a living to
support their families. To meet their families’ needs, many women have
become economic migrants, subject to exploitation by unscrupulous
employment agencies and employers.
President Patricia Friend says union members are recognizing more and
more that violence against women can spill over into the workplace.
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We need to be aware that some of our members are coming
to work in very difficult circumstances and may need our help. This is
a human rights issue, and any human rights issues is a union issue.
Globally, women not only are vulnerable to domestic violence, but
are caught in wars and forced into human trafficking for sex in large
numbers, says Friend, who represents the AFL-CIO on ITUC’s committee on
In March, the AFL-CIO Executive Council issued a Charter of Rights of Working Women,
pointing out that women are increasingly moving from place to place as
economic migrants, rather than as dependents of male migrants, and are
subjected to exploitation by agencies and employers. This situation is
unacceptable, Shuler says.
Employers must be held responsible for ensuring that
women have a safe workplace free of all forms of violence and sexual
harassment. That is why today is so important. Until we have brought an
end to violence against women, our families, our economies, our nations
and our world will pay the price for our inaction.
Each member of the Network—current and former politicians,
activists, religious and community leaders, and others—will work to
support the longstanding efforts of women and civil society
organizations worldwide to end violence, undertaking actions from
raising public awareness to advocating for adequate laws.