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

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Video US Landmark Pushes Endangered Species

People gathered in streets, on rooftops in Manhattan to see image highlights that covered 33 floors of Empire State Building More

World’s Widest Suspension Bridge Being Built Over Bosphorus

Once built, Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge will span 2 kilometers with about 1.5 kilometers over water, and will be longest suspension bridge in world carrying rail system More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs