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 domestic workers.
AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler says in a statement:
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 rape.
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.
Flight Attendants-CWA President Patricia Friend says union members are recognizing more and more that violence against women can spill over into the workplace.
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 women.
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.