Ending Violence in the Workplace  


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Ending Violence in the Workplace

End-Violence Moderator
January  2000

Dear Working Group Members,

During the past six months we have focused our discussion on recommendations for the Beijing +5 review process. WomenWatch, including UNIFEM and other UN agencies, are currently compiling a document with recommendations to be considered by at the UN General Assembly meeting in June 2000, when world leaders will review the progress made since the World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. We will soon send you information on obtaining the document.

We would now like to turn our attention to a topic we have only barely touched upon since the beginning of the Working Group: violence in the work place. As more and more women enter the workplace, it has become increasingly important to consider the relationship between female and male employees, particularly as sexual intimidation by male co-workers has become more visible world-wide.

Even in societies where women historically made up a significant segment of the (paid) work force, like the postcommunist states of Central and Eastern Europe, women still face major challenges in the work place. A recent article in the New York Times reported that sexual harassment is very common in countries like the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. Yet at the same time these societies tend to perceive the idea of sexual harassment as a "Western plague" or "invention of hysterical American feminists" that threatens to spoil "natural" relations between men and women. Sexual harassment is rarely codified as a criminal offence. Labor codes mostly include only piecemeal stipulations that women can use to ensure a safe working environment.

In the next weeks to come we would like to learn from your experiences and knowledge about violence in the work place. We propose to focus the discussion on the following questions:

1. What is the current situation in your country? How is sexual harassment or violence in the work place defined? Is there a public awareness about the existence of sexual intimidation? Does legislation exist that can assist women in combating harassment?

2. To what extent can legal strategies be effective, both as preventive and remedial measures? Do you know of examples of successful legal strategies to combat sexual harassment in the workplace? Are you aware of unsuccessful legal measures, and if so, why were they not effective?

3. Do you know of other successful strategies for reducing violence/harassment in the workplace? Please tell us about them. For example, have there been effective strategies to change cultural barriers? Or strategies to change relations of power between men and women?

4. Are there any companies that have been highly successful in preventing violence/harassment against women? What approaches did they use to achieve that success?

5. How can we measure improvements in the levels of violence/harassment in the workplace? Are there companies/countries that are using measures effectively?

As always, we are grateful for your active participation and look forward to your contributions!

With warm regards,

The UNIFEM Task Force End-Violence Moderators


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