News / Africa

ILO Educates on Gender Equality in the Workplace

Multimedia

Audio
Kim Lewis
The International Labor Organization (ILO) has initiated a course on gender equality in the workplace in response to international demand. The course focused on sexual discrimination in the workplace, and how international labor laws can be applied appropriately when dealing with gender issues in court.  25 African judges attended the course in order to improve the way in which they apply international labor standards in the context of gender.
The week-long course, sponsored by the Bureau of Gender Equality of the ILO, took place recently in Turin, Italy.  It focused on ways to prioritize cases involving employees who have been discriminated against or sexually harassed, especially cases where the worker is living with HIV/AIDS or is pregnant.  Jane Hodges, who heads the ILO’s Bureau for Gender Equality, said the course focused on several areas that are receiving a lot of litigation.
“Many cases on sexual discrimination, including dismissal of a worker who refuses advances of an undisciplined and unethical employer, but also situations where the workplace itself is made to be so hostile and intimidating that workers actually leave, is a form of constructive dismissal, as the judges like to call it,” explained Hodges.
Among the international group of attendees were African judges.
“It was a fascinating group, including judge-presidents and senior judges from Botswana, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia.  And they were bringing very interesting legal issues about their constitutional possibility to quote international standards. For example, the ILO standard that says there shall be no sex discrimination based on sex in the workplace, for example, in the form of dismissal because one is pregnant,” noted Hodges, who also explained that many English-speaking jurisdictions, whether in Africa, the Pacific or Caribbean islands, or Europe, translated international law into their own domestic legal systems.  However, those countries that follow civil law can use international law directly.
“If one had signed the convention, for example, to give domestic workers equal rights, most of them of course we know are women.  And the government, let’s say, like South Africa, has a piece of legislation, a determination, that translates that international law into the South African domestic legal system. That means that domestic workers who feel they are poorly treated at work, underpaid, denied days off, physically mistreated, can use the domestic law, the South African text, and use the international law to back it up,” said Hodges.
One of the main issues in sexual discrimination cases is the reporting of the abuse.  Many women and even men do not report these types of incidents because they may be in a community where one is stigmatized for mentioning an incident. 
Hodges said this problem was brought up many times during the course: “Taking a case on one’s own, particularly in a lot of cases--let’s take the sexual harassment or the maternity dismissal example--these are younger women who might not have the time or the money to actually engage in litigation,” said Hodges, who added, “that is why the ILO has tried over the years to help improve situations, usually set up under simple laws, for alternative dispute resolution, so that the labor commissioners, the ministries can help in a less litigious, less conflicting, less costly environment, [and can] help settle a dispute between an aggrieved worker and the employer.” 
A good example of how tools learned from the course were applied in real life is in Botswana.
“The weakness in the domestic legislation regarding essential services, and where the workers there can strike, that weakness was strengthened by reference to international jurisprudence, particularly from the ILO on the subject. Likewise, a  number of cases concerning unfair sexist inheritance laws that had actually been upheld at the level of customary courts in that country, Botswana, have now been held to be unfair under their constitution.  And the courts have clearly said that women can inherit alongside their brothers when there is a death in the family,” explained Hodges.
Ultimately, said Hodges, the judicial system needs to do more in the area of publishing the outcome of these types of cases, so that other court systems can be better informed.  She said many of the countries that have discrimination issues also have huge poverty challenges, so the civil service may not be regularly publishing judgements.  However, she said with the help of international donor support, and by educating labor courts, the regular publishing of judgements can help bring about social justice in all courts.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Role in Fighting IS Carries Domestic Risks

There are Western concerns Islamic State militants soon may unleash offensive in kingdom that could create upheaval - though nation has solid intel, grip on banking system More

Asian-Americans Enter Public Office in Record Numbers

A steady deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid