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

Video In Ukraine's Nikishino, No House Untouched by Fighting

Ninety percent of homes in one small village were damaged or destroyed as government forces failed to stop a rebel advance More

Pakistan’s 'Last Self-Declared Jew' Attacked, Detained

Argument about the rights of non-Muslims in Pakistan allegedly results in mob beating well-known Jewish Pakistani More

Turkey Cracks Down on Political Dissent, Again

People daring to engage in political dissent ahead of upcoming general elections could find themselves in jail More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Their Own Words: Citizens of Kobanii
X
Mahmoud Bali
March 06, 2015 8:43 PM
Civilians are slowly returning to Kobani, after Kurdish fighters backed by coalition airstrikes fought off a four-month siege of the northern Syrian town by Islamic State militants. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Mahmoud Bali talked to some of those who have returned. We hear about the devastation of Kobani through their own words.
Video

Video In Their Own Words: Citizens of Kobani

Civilians are slowly returning to Kobani, after Kurdish fighters backed by coalition airstrikes fought off a four-month siege of the northern Syrian town by Islamic State militants. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Mahmoud Bali talked to some of those who have returned. We hear about the devastation of Kobani through their own words.
Video

Video In Ukraine's Nikishino, No House Untouched by Fighting

In the village of Nikishino, in eastern Ukraine, recent fighting has brought utter devastation. Ninety percent of the houses are damaged or destroyed after government forces tried and failed to stop rebels advancing on the strategically important town of Debaltseve nearby. Patrick Wells reports for VOA from Nikishino.
Video

Video Crime Scenes Re-Created in 3-D Visualization

Police and prosecutors sometimes resort to re-creations of crime scenes in order to better understand the interaction of all participants in complicated cases. A Swiss institute says advanced virtual reality technology can be used for quality re-creations of events at the moment of the crime. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisis

There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Growing Concerns Over Whether Myanmar’s Next Elections Will Be Fair

Myanmar has scheduled national elections for November that are also expected to include a landmark referendum on the country's constitution. But there are growing concerns over whether the government is taking the necessary steps to prepare for a free and fair vote. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was recently in Myanmar and files this report from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.
Video

Video Nigeria’s Ogonis Divided Over Resuming Oil Production

More than two decades ago, Nigeria’s Ogoni people forced Shell oil company to cease drilling on their land, saying it was polluting the environment. Now, some Ogonis say it’s time for the oil to flow once again. Chris Stein reports from Kegbara Dere, Nigeria.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More