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Tackling violence and harassment at work: A world to win

Trade unions make progress towards safe work

Globally, 1 in 3 women experience violence and harassment. Trade unions are key drivers when it comes to tackling this at work. During Orange the World, the global campaign against violence against women that starts on 25 November until 10 December, together with partner unions, CNV Internationaal will stress the importance of ratifying the international convention against violence and harassment at work. Important steps have already been taken. Now countries must urgently take the final steps properly and ratify the convention. The same applies here, in the Netherlands. Revelations about #metoo recently showed how serious the problems are in the Netherlands, and how important good laws and regulations are. Which is why the Netherlands, in particular, should not lag behind when it comes to ratifying this convention.


Worldwide, 36 countries have now completed their preparations and have really taken the step towards ratification. Another 20 countries are expected to follow in 2024.

The Netherlands has also announced that it will ratify the convention, but it is not clear yet how it intends to do this. Policy must be properly adjusted so that violence at work is really prevented. Proper ratification means we can be a good example to other countries.



CNV Internationaal's trade union partners in Asia, Africa and Latin America have done important work in recent years in tackling violence and (sexual) harassment. They have been key drivers for this groundbreaking international convention against violence and harassment at work. 

This International Labour Organisation Convention No. 190 was adopted by governments, employers and workers back in June 2019. It has been officially in force since June 2021.

This ILO Convention No. 190 is a pioneering international convention in the fight against gender-based violence (GBV) at work. In many countries, it has triggered the improvement of laws and regulations as well as their implementation at work.


International production chains

It is of great importance - also in international production chains - that comparable standards are established worldwide in this area. This convention is an important improvement that also contributes to SDG5 (gender equality and empowerment for all women and girls) 

Advertising for the trade union help line in Benin

Trade union telephone helpline

Trade union COSI from Benin is one of the trade unions in West Africa that, with the support of CNV Internationaal, has set up a free telephone helpline for women experiencing violence at work. With this helpline, they can reach someone that will listen to them, ask for (legal) advice or a medical referral. The line is especially important for women doing informal work, such as domestic work. Trade unions also pay a lot of attention to awareness trainings and publicity to break the culture of silence on these issues.

Gender committees on palm oil plantations

Women working on palm oil plantations also often face gender-based violence or harassment. Gender committees can offer women a safe place to address their problems. CNV Internationaal organised a training in Central Kalimantan on setting up these gender committees.

Tackling GBV in CBA of garment factory 

Indonesian trade union GARTEKS successfully negotiated clauses on addressing gender-based violence and harassment in the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) of Park Enterprises' garment factory.

The story of Melati a brave battle against harrassment


Key driver

In every country ratification of ILO Convention No. 190 (also known as C190) and its recommendation R206, is a  process of legal reforms and workplace policies aimed at improving the situation of working people. Trade unions are a key driver in this process, according to research by the international trade union organisation ITUC.


  • 92% of the 104 unions surveyed in 66 countries are involved in social dialogue to align C190 with national laws and policies.
  •  85% of trade unions are involved in social dialogue to align national laws and policies with Convention 190.



In the process towards ratification, trade unions have already managed to book some success:

  • In Indonesia, a trade union campaign led to sexual harassment being included in the new criminal law;
  • Trade union CGTG in Guatemala successfully lobbied for an amendment to the criminal law on violence and harassment.
  • In Ivory Coast the government began implementing a law to protect victims of domestic violence, rape and other sexual violence.

There is still a long way to go, but globally trade unions are joining forces to increase change / their impact on the road to a safe workplace.

Learn more and downloads

More regarding the prevention and elimination of violence and harassment at work on the thematic page >>

Guide for small and medium companies >>

Publication date 24 11 2023