The International Labour Organisation (ILO) Office for Nepal organised a virtual workshop on ‘Preventing and Responding to Violence and Harassment in the World of Work’, in line with this year’s theme of 16 days of activism campaign against gender-based violence (GBV).

The workshop was focused to strengthen participants’ understanding on what constitutes violence and harassment, and on key elements of the Violence and Harassment Convention (No 190) and its accompanying Recommendation (No 206) adopted in June 2019.

Similarly, the workshop reviewed Nepal’s progress on legal and policy framework and good practices on GBV prevention and response with more than 40 people including representatives of ILO tripartite partners, UN agencies and civil society organisations attending the virtual event.

Workplace violence and harassment is a significant and on-going threat to worker’s health and safety, as well as to organisational productivity and reputation. In today’s context, the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the already existing incidences of GBV.

“Fighting against violence and harassment in the world of work is at the heart of ILO’s efforts,” Richard Howard, director of ILO Country Office, has been quoted as saying in a media release issued today.

“Violence and harassment in the world of work is therefore the antithesis of decent work. It is a threat to the dignity, health and well-being of those who experience it, and for their families. Addressing violence and harassment is imperative during COVID-19 as many frontline workers such as health workers are facing various kinds of violence and harassment,” said Howard.

An exploratory study conducted by ILO Nepal in 2004 identified that 53.84 per cent of women workers have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. In 2015, Nepal adopted Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Elimination) Act for the prevention and protection of employees from sexual harassment.

Sharing the provisions of ILO Convention (No 190), Aya Matsuura, ILO gender specialist, emphasised the need for an inclusive, integrated and gender responsive approach in eliminating violence and harassment in the world of work, and highlighted the importance of addressing the underlying causes of unequal gender relations and existing inequalities in the society.

The workshop also highlighted the gaps in the 2015 Sexual Harassment Act. The main challenges for effective implementation include lack of accompanying regulations, lack of codes of conduct ascertaining reporting and dispute resolution mechanisms, and the absence of a specific nodal ministry to enforce the act.