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Uganda Joins Global Community in War on Violence, Harassment

Uganda is set to start the process of ratifying a landmark global convention on ending violence and harassment in the world of work, a senior government official has revealed.

A convention is an agreement between states covering particular matters, especially one less formal than a treaty.

Pius Bigirimana, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, says Uganda was among the countries that adopted the convention at the recently concluded 108th International Labour Conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Convention defines “violence and harassment” in the world of work as a  range of unacceptable behaviours and practices, or threats, whether a single occurrence or repeated, that aim at, result in, or are likely to result in physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm, and includes gender-based violence and harassment.

It also makes it clear that everyone has the right to a world of work free from violence and harassment including gender-based violence and harassment

The Convention extends protection to all workers irrespective of their contractual status, including workers who are exercising the authority of an employer, as well as jobseekers, trainees, interns and apprentices, volunteers and among others.

The Convention also extends protection from violence and harassment to third parties in the world of work like clients, customers, patients, or members of the public. This covers for example medical workers who harass patients and clients who engage in acts of violence and harassment against employees.

“Whether you are an employee, visitor, intern or customer at a shop, you are protected from any form of harassment,” he said.

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According to the ILO, over 35 percent of women globally aged 15 years and above have experienced sexual or physical violence at home, and in the workplace.

“However until June 21, 2019, no International Labour Standard addressed violence and harassment as its primary aim and none defined such violence and harassment or sought to eliminate it from the world of work and none provided clear guidance on how to address the violence and harassment,” said Bigirimana.

The new convention is seen as a big step forward since previous instruments on violence and harassment focused on certain forms of violence and specific workers only such as domestic workers, workers living with HIV and indigenous persons.

The targeted nature of the protections left a gap for the workers not covered under such instruments, who constitute the vast majority of workers around the world.

This Convention applies to violence and harassment in the world of work occurring in the workplace; places where the worker is paid, takes a rest break or a meal, or uses sanitary, washing and changing facilities; during work-related trips, travel, training, events or social activities; through work-related communications, including those enabled by information and communication technologies; employer-provided accommodation; and when commuting to and from work.

Bigirimana said each member state will adopt laws and regulations to define and prohibit violence and harassment in the world of work, including gender-based violence and harassment. “It follows therefore that we are going to work towards ratification and domestication of the Convention,” said Bigirimana, adding, “Employers are required to take appropriate steps commensurate with their degree of control to prevent violence and harassment in the world of work, including gender-based violence and harassment.”

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