Law and sexual harassment

This page was last updated on: 2021-11-28

What does international labour law say about sexual harassment at the workplace?

As mentioned before, laws on sexual harassment differ from country to country, and even from culture to culture. However, several global labour and human rights organisations have developed conventions, resolutions and policy statements concerning the topic.

A. International Labour Organisation (ILO):

The workers’ group from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has called for a proposal for a new ILO standard (convention accompanied by a recommendation) on gender-based violence at work. The ILO has now announced that a debate for a convention on sexual harassment and violence in the workaplce will be on the agenda in 2018. Currently, the ILO has addressed sexual harassment primarily as a form of discrimination in the workplace.

The major ILO convention addressing sex discrimination is Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention (No.111) which entered into force in 1960. It defines discrimination to include "any distinction, exclusion or preference made on the basis of . . . sex . . . which has the effect of nullifying or impairing equality of opportunity or treatment in employment or occupation."

This convention does not explicitly mention sexual harassment, although a 2003 general observation states that "sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination and should be addressed within the requirements of the convention."

B. United Nations (UN):

The General Assembly Resolution 48/104 on the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women defines violence against women to include sexual harassment, which is prohibited at work, in educational institutions, and elsewhere, and encourages development of penal, civil or other administrative sanctions, as well as preventative approaches to eliminate violence against women.

C. Regional - Africa:

The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa obligates state parties to take appropriate measures to: Eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and guarantee equal opportunity and access in the sphere of education and training Protect women from all forms of abuse (including sexual harassment) Ensure transparency in recruitment, promotion and dismissal of women, and combat and punish sexual harassment in education and the workplace.

D. Regional - Europe:

The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union specifically enshrines the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, and Article 23 obligates states to ensure equality between men and women in all areas. This principle has been further elaborated through several directives dealing with sexual harassment. These directives require member states to incorporate into national law a number of principles, including encouraging employers to take measures to combat all forms of sexual discrimination and prevent harassment in the workplace.

What are examples of sexual harassment laws in different countries?

Sexual harassment laws differ from country to country.

To see what the labour laws are in different countries, click here: Link to Global World Map Labour Laws

To see what the law says in your country, click here: Link to country-specific Labour Law section on Sexual Harassment

What do CBAs says about sexual harassment at the workplace?


To compare CBAs on Sexual Harassment, click here: Link to CBAs

<!-- /15944428/ --> <div id='div-gpt-ad-1604915830963-0'> <script> googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('div-gpt-ad-1604915830963-0'); }); </script> </div>