UN labour body to draft sexual harassment treaty

Convention to prevent "unacceptable behaviours and practices, or threats thereof" will be voted on next year

Irish President Michael D. Higgins, speaks, during the 107th annual International Labour Conference (ILC) of the International Labor Organization, ILO, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Thursday, June 7, 2018. (Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP)

The UN's labour body agreed on Friday to draft an international treaty to protect workers from sexual harassment and violence, as the #Metoo movement continues to reverberate and shame perpetrators around the world.

Wrapping up their annual meeting in Geneva, members of the International Labour Organisation agreed on the need to "adopt standards on violence and harassment in the world of work".

"These standards should take the form of a Convention," said a text adopted Friday.

The ILO, which groups 187 member states along with labour unions and representatives of leading employers, agreed that the treaty would be debated and voted on at their 2019 annual conference.

The decision comes as the #MeToo movement continues to make waves around the world, with victims coming forward to report sexual harassment, sometimes by leading figures in industry and the arts.

While final agreement on the new ILO convention is not expected until next June, members agreed on Friday that the treaty should aim to prevent "a range of unacceptable behaviours and practices, or threats thereof."

They said it would target behaviour "likely to result in physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm".

Each state ratifying the text will need to recognise "the right to a world of work free from violence and harassment".

They will have to ensure that national legislation bans all forms of violence and harassment at work, to establish and strengthen enforcement and monitoring mechanisms, provide sanctions and ensure remedies and support for victims, among other measures.

High-profile allegations of sexual abuse and harassment began surfacing last year, notably against US film producer Harvey Weinstein, and then ballooned as the #Metoo moverment went global.

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