The amended Labour Code is expected as a major step forward in promoting gender equality, particularly protecting women from sexual harassment at workplaces, but it is not enough to make female workers happy.
HANOI (ILO News) – The amended Labour Code is an important step to better protect women at workplaces but more need to be done to establish gender equality in practice, the ILO Executive Director of the Social Dialogue Sector Sandra Polaski has said.
The new Labour Code, which will take effect in May 2013, for the first time prohibits sexual harassment at workplaces.
According to a relevant report carried out by the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs with supports from the ILO, most of the victims of sexual harassment in Viet Nam are female workers. The initial report, the first ever overview on this sensitive issue in the country, showed that the victims are usually aged between 18 and 30.
However, the culture and fear of losing jobs prevent many victims from reporting the cases.
“Quite often victims of sexual harassment don’t make complaints because they feel embarrassed and humiliated,” said Ms Polaski. “Creating a safe mechanism for complaints by governments, employers and trade unions is one of the most powerful things that can be done.”
She said Viet Nam needs a lot more statistics and data in terms of sexual harassment at workplaces in particular and labour issues in general to help policy-makers.
While praising the Government for putting into law the prohibition of this practice, Nguyen Kim Lan, ILO national project coordinator on gender issues, said the new Labour Code fails to define sexual harassment at workplaces.
“Without clear definitions, it would be difficult to enforce the law,” she said.
The most recent sexual harassment case covered by the media was reported at Soc Trang Hospital in the southern province of Soc Trang in July 2012. A nurse accused the hospital’s Ear-Nose-Throat Ward head of sexually harassing her while on duty but the doctor insisted that it was not sexual abuse.
According to the ILO, sexual harassment undermines gender equality at work and the productivity of enterprises is also affected as the practice weakens work relationships.
In many parts of the world, sexual harassment has been recognised as a serious problem that workers may experience in workplaces. A recent study in Switzerland showed that half of the workers in the country are likely to encounter sexual harassment at work. A survey conducted in China in 2009 found that one in five interviewed female respondents had experienced sexual harassment while working. The US also received more than 12,500 new charges of sexual harassment on the job in 2007 alone.
Ms Polaski recommended the Vietnamese Government improve public awareness and enhance law enforcement to guarantee that women will not be subject to sexual harassment.
It is also the case for longer maternity leave and the right to equal pay for workers, including women, as stipulated by the amended Labour Code, she said
“There is no one single thing that can ensure gender equality. It’s approached through different directions,” she added. “With the new Labour Code, Viet Nam has made a good start but it’s clear that the Government has more work to do.”