ILO Proposed Convention to Guide China's Legislation on Sexual Harassment

July 2, 2018
By Liu MinghuiEditor: Liu Yang

The International Labour Organization's (ILO) proposed convention on the elimination of sexual harassment and violence in the workplace will provide China with a guide in its relevant legislations and urge domestic enterprises to take action against them, said Liu Minghui, a legal expert from China Women's University (CWU).

The ILO announced on June 2 that it was going to finalize the convention and proposals during its annual conference in 2019. It has received support from China, the European Union (EU), Central and South American countries, and African countries, though the U.S. and Russia have voiced their opposition.

Victims of sexual harassment often feel guilt, anger and fatigue, and experience other forms of negative physical reactions.

China has pledged to take a number of measures to guarantee the physical and psychological health of its people in their workplaces after the ratification of the ILO's Convention on Occupational Safety and Health in October 2006.

The State Council, China's cabinet, approved the Special Regulations on Labor Protection of Female Employees in April 2012, according to which employers should take action to prevent and curb the occurrence of sexual harassment against female employees in their workplace.

It is the first time that China has made such a clear specification over employers' responsibilities in its national legislative level. However, the majority of enterprises knew nothing of the special regulations until now.

According to a survey of employees from Shenzhen-based enterprises in 2013, over 60 percent have fought back against sexual harassment but nearly half haven't received any formal answers in the process.

Sexual harassment can also be found in job interviews, physical examinations, and in tests of job seekers' abilities in public relations. It has seriously infringed relevant victims' rights to equal employment, labor safety and health, and sometimes even forced them to quit their jobs.

Many victims, especially female employees, often choose to remain silent since there aren't any functional mechanisms in the workplace to protect their rights and interests.

They may lose their jobs even if they win lawsuits against relevant perpetrators. Moreover, they also face the pressure of biased public opinions, with totally unjustified and baseless allegations that they seduce others to have affairs with them, sometimes for their own professional gain.

Liu stressed that China's Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MOHRSS) would introduce its regulations on the prevention and eradication of sexual harassment in the workplace if the ILO passes the proposed convention next year.

The MOHRSS should make clear statements about employers' concrete responsibilities in the prevention of sexual harassment and hold them accountable for failure to observe relevant rules in the draft regulation.

More specifically, enterprises are expected to set up their own mechanisms and hold professional training in a drive to increase employees' awareness and capacities in handling sexual harassment.

They are also encouraged to write anti-sexual harassment clauses into their employee handbooks and labor contracts as part of their efforts to reduce the turnover of faculty staff and increase productivity whilst building a friendly corporate culture for staff workers of all genders.

(Source: China Women's News/Translated and edited by Women of China)

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