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CNV International calls for international standards to stop violence in the workplace

"International standards are needed if we want to break the cycle of violence at work and the silence that surrounds it.” On the day before International Women’s Day, Arend van Wijngaarden, President of CNV Internationaal, addresses the need for international standards for dealing with the issue of violence at work.

CNV Internationaal advocates an International ILO convention on this topic of violence at work. The ILO is an international labour organisation run by the United Nations. According to Wijngaarden, the ILO “can vote to begin the implementation of international standards against violence in the workplace as early as this June when they will hold their annual conference.”


Recent studies done by global trade union ITUC, show that violence against women is a significant issue worldwide. 35% of women over the age of 15 have experienced sexual or psychological aggression either at home or at work. And a third of the women in G20 countries (the 20 wealthiest European countries) has experienced some form of sexual harassment at work but is afraid to talk about it.

The recent #metoo movement on social media further confirms that these forms of violence against women are still happening large-scale.

“One of the problems is that few women press charges; often they’re afraid they won’t be taken seriously or that they’ll lose their jobs. It’s also very difficult “to ‘prove’ that a boundary has been violated. The result: the issue of there being a crime is never raised,” contends Van Wijngaarden.

“Therefore, we must ensure that women are taken seriously, that there are, in fact, legal avenues to pursue regarding this problem of violence at work. This is why CNV Internationaal is advocating international standards which protect the rights of those who suffer violence where they work. This includes a concrete, legal definition of what “violence” and “harassment” are in this context. Not just to help current victims, but to prevent new cases. In these standards we need to include accurate descriptions regarding how to create a safe manner and place for women to register their complaints, as well as how these women will be protected in the process.

The ILO is a unique organisation in that each member state is represented by two governing bodies and a member of the national labour organisation, as well as one of the workers’ organisations. Before any of their conventions become binding, they must be ratified by these member states.

Van Wijngaarden concludes, “If we succeed in getting this onto the ILO agenda in June, we could see international standards regarding gender-based violence in the workplace by 2020.”

Final report of the Tripartite Meeting of Experts on Violence against Women and Men in the World of WorkViolence at work is not part of the job - CNV Internationaal Guide Violence at the workplace - CNV Internationaal Survey

Publication date 06 03 2018