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

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    First Human Head Transplant Planned for 2017

    Italian neurosurgeon, assisted by team of 100 medical staff, to perform 36-hour surgery on Russian man with debilitating muscle-wasting disease

    Biden Urges Global Focus on Cancer as a 'Constant Emergency'

    At Vatican conference on regenerative medicine, Vice president notes that cancer kills more than 3,000 people each day in US alone

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora