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CSOs urge labour standards

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Garment workers in a factory in Phnom Penh’s Special Economic Zones in 2015. Hong Menea

CSOs urge labour standards

Forty-two civil society organisations (CSOs) urged the government to ratify the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Convention No 190 on Violence and Harassment (C190) in the world of work.

In their June 21 joint statement marking the two-year anniversary of the C190 adoption, the CSOs said the UN Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) specifically recommended that Cambodia ratify C190 in its 2019 concluding observations from its review of Cambodia’s implementation of the CEDAW treaty.

They said the CEDAW had expressed concern about the absence of a comprehensive law that defines and effectively prohibits violence and harassment, including all forms of gender-based violence and harassment (GBVH) and sexual harassment, arising from or linked to work, particularly considering the prevalence of such violence in the garment industry and while commuting to and from work.

The CEDAW recommended that the government “adopt and implement comprehensive legislation to prevent and respond to all forms of violence and harassment, including sexual harassment” and “establish an independent complaints mechanism to ensure that victims have effective access to redress and that perpetrators are held accountable”.

The CSOs said ratification of ILO’s C190 by the government is more important and urgent than ever so that Cambodia may contribute to delivering on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially in the context of Covid-19 response and recovery.

They said Covid-19 had worsened the working conditions of all workers including through greater degrees of financial insecurity, unemployment, stress, the burden of unpaid care work for women workers, and risks of domestic violence that impacts work.

“ILO C190 and its associated ILO Recommendation 206 provide a clear legal framework for all the necessary measures to identify hazards and assess the risks of violence and harassment, and to take effective measures to protect the safety, health, and well-being of all workers, including in the Covid-19 context,” the joint statement said.

The CSOs urged the government to make 2021 the year that Cambodia takes an important next step to reaffirm its commitment to ending violence and harassment in the world of work, including gender-based violence and sexual harassment.

Heng Sour, spokesman for the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, said the ministry would consider the CSOs’ suggestions.

“We will consider it, but our laws and regulations have already covered all these issues,” he said.

On June 21, 2019, Cambodia’s delegation joined with other governments, employer representatives, unions, and CSOs from around the world in voting to adopt ILO’s C190 and Recommendation No 206 at the International Labour Conference held in Geneva, Switzerland. Six countries have already ratified C190, and it will enter into force on June 25.

ILO’s C190 is the first internationally binding labour standard to recognise the human right to a world of work free from all forms of violence and harassment on a gender basis, and it affirms that all workers have the right to be treated with dignity and respect on the job, irrespective of their contractual status in both the formal and informal sectors.

The C190 also recognises the changing nature of where work is conducted by not only covering the physical workplace, but also commuting to and from work, work-related communications, and places where workers are paid, take breaks and eat meals.

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