In 2019, the Global 16 Days Campaign will focus on violence in the world of work and the ratification of the newly adopted ILO (International Labour Organization) special instruments on violence and harassment in the world of work.
16 Days is a global campaign to end violence against women, beginning on 25th November and ending on 10th December, Human Rights Day. The campaign was launched in 1991, and is coordinated by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL). In 2018, the campaign focused on the ILO’s adoption of special instruments on violence and harassment in the world of work: Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019 (C190) and Violence and Harassment Recommendation, 2019 (R206). This year, the #RatifyILO190 campaign aims to mobilise women across different movements to collectively take action to ensure the instruments are ratified and implemented. The campaign is aiming to have 50 governments ratify ILO C190 by 2025.
The campaign began to ‘help bridge the women’s rights and labour rights movements’, and there are many opportunities for sex workers to get involved with the campaign. CWGL has produced a campaign guide to provide more information for groups that wish to get involved.
Many of the issues raised in the campaign overlap directly with areas NSWP members work on, and NSWP’s Consensus Statement on Sex Work, Human Rights and the Law, including highlighting women’s right to live free from violence:
“Human rights standards uphold that all forms of GBV, including those taking place in the world of work, prohibit the enjoyment by women workers of the right to live free from violence, among other human rights and fundamental freedoms… Women must be able to work in conditions of safety and security, with dignity, agency, and autonomy.”
Exploitative working conditions
“Economic vulnerability and poverty increase women’s risk of violence and harassment as job-seekers and workers. These dynamics often impede women’s access to the labor market and, once admitted, make them dependent on jobs with exploitative conditions or abusive employers, co-workers, or third parties.”
Gender-based violence and exposure to HIV
“GBV has also been shown to increase the risk of women being infected by sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. In many countries, persons with HIV, including women, are dismissed or not employed based on discriminatory prejudices.”
Effect on most marginalised groups
“Although all workers are potentially at risk, there are some sectors in which exposure to violence and harassment is more pervasive. R206 explicitly mentions the need to implement specific measures to protect those working in the health, hospitality, social services, emergency services, domestic work, transport, education, and entertainment sectors. In addition to these sectors, the most significant impact of violence and harassment falls on marginalized women workers, including, but not limited to migrant workers, undocumented workers, women in conflict, and those in the informal sector, and does so depending on the intersections of their class, race, ethnicity, caste, sexual orientation, religion, ability, age, and nationality, among others. C190 explicitly calls on governments to ensure the right to equality and non- discrimination “for women workers, as well as for workers and other persons belonging to one or more vulnerable groups or groups in situations of vulnerability that are disproportionately affected by violence and harassment in the world of work.” In addition, R206 details that “Convention  should be interpreted in accordance with applicable international labour standards and international instruments on human rights.”
“As women, we are ALL workers- whether our work is paid or unpaid, formal or informal, in the family or in the office. Even our activism is our work! Bridging with women’s leadership and building alliances across movements (from women’s rights to labor rights, to those leading efforts on climate change, health, and more) gives us a holistic and integrated approach to ending violence in all spheres of our lives, whether public or private and can allow us to expose violence in situations where it remains hidden. Women’s work spans across many spheres! Movements need to come together and jointly advocate to make the links more visible.”
In a recent interview in the Health and Human Rights Journal, Winnie Byanyima, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, suggested collaborative working across UN agencies could help make progress for fulfilling human rights, specifically mentioning the ILO in relation to sex workers’ human rights:
“I do think there are ways to deepen the synergies among co-sponsors, particularly at the country-level, to increase the impact. Here I would hope that engaging the Human Rights Council in meaningful ways could be expanded to address issues of people who use drugs in particular; that collaborations with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and UN Women could mobilize a greater part of the women’s movement to address the higher vulnerability of young women; that engaging the International Labour Organization (ILO) could help tackle issues of sex workers’ rights… We need a UNAIDS that leads within the UN system for the rights of people living with and at risk of HIV.”
Campaign organisers are encouraging people to get involved in a range of ways, including engaging government and decision makers, organising mobilisation and online actions, engaging with trade unions and raising awareness through the media. Read more about campaign action ideas in the campaign guide. Read more about the 16 Days Campaign and sex work.