Although it has supported proposals for an ILO standard against gender-based violence at work, Botswana doesn’t include that ideal among its top three priorities.
With just one month left before the ILO Governing Council meets, Public Service International (PSI) has asked member trade unions around the world to lobby their respective governments to adopt that standard. Botswana is among countries that are being especially targeted because it was elected a member of the Governing Council in June last year for the 2014-17 period. PSI’s precise message to its affiliates is, “Sway those who supported the proposal but gave higher priority to other proposals ÔÇô notably the Africa Group (esp. Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania), which had the proposal as fourth priority.” Affiliates are being asked to send letters to the members of the ILO Governing Body and their governments by October 23.
“In order for the proposal to be accepted by the Governing Body (GB), we will therefore need to persuade more governments to support it as a first priority, and to convince some national employers’ associations that are members of the GB to support the proposal,” PSI says.
In Botswana, the task of lobbying the government falls to the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) whose Deputy Secretary General, Ketlhalefile Motshegwa, says the Federation has internalised the new standard within its policy campaign programme for October and November, 2015.
“We have since written a letter to the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs, urging the government to elevate the matter as of top priority in the national affairs of the country. Our take is that ending this violence is much critical for work place peace and harmony and broader national prosperity. We will also be lobbying individual legislators on the matter, mainstream the issue to other stakeholders such Business Botswana (formerly known as BOCCIM) as they represent private sector employers,” says Motshegwa, adding that the Federation’s “grandest” plan is to resuscitate gender activism in the country. “The gender activism movement scaled down when a number of women who were at the forefront of the movement were co-opted into the current system by being given plum jobs. We take it as important to take men on board as well so that the matter is not trivialized as exclusively and simply a women matter.”
According to the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), which originated this standard, 35 percent of women across the world fall victim to direct violence at the workplace, and of these between 40 percent and 50 percent are subjected to unwanted sexual advances, physical contact or other forms of sexual harassment.
In terms of the proposed standard, sexual and gender-based violence at work are considered to be an impediment to decent work; a serious violation of human rights and attack on dignity and physical and psychological integrity; damaging to the economy and social progress by weakening the bases upon which work relationships are built; impairing productivity; and a reflection of unequal power relations between women and men and therefore perpetuating inequalities at work. The EESC says that gender-based violence is growing on account of the economic crisis, structural adjustment programmes and austerity measures have contributed to increasing violence at work.