For further information about the 9th UN Forum on business and human rights, please visit the Forum webpage

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Wednesday, November 18 • 10:20 - 11:40
Transformative responses to sexual harassment and gender-based violence

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Session organized by the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights 

Interpretation in English, French and Spanish available

Brief description of the session  
Gender-based violence (GBV), which includes sexual harassment and the threat of violence, is one of the most prevalent human rights abuses in the business context. GBV disproportionately affects women, girls and LGBTI people. Because of the intersectional and multi-layered nature of discrimination, GBV may particularly affect these persons coming from vulnerable groups such as indigenous persons, migrant workers, victims of trafficking, sex workers, domestic workers, persons of disability, and refugees. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation of GBV faced by women, girls and LGBTI people. In this context, this session will discuss various transformative measures that states, businesses, industry associations, trade unions, women organisations and other stakeholders could take to tackle the root causes of GBV.

Key objectives of the session 
  • discuss ways to strengthen the implementation of national and international standards related to GBV;  
  • showcase emerging business policies, practices and processes (e.g., adopting zero tolerance policy towards all forms of violence at work, conducting human rights due diligence with a gender perspective) to prevent GBV;
  • highlight challenge to strengthen access to effective remedy to the victims and survivor of GBV; and  
  • foster collaboration among different stakeholders to prevent GBV and promote substantive gender equality in the business and human rights field.

Key questions 
  •  What steps should states and businesses take, in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the ILO’s Violence and Harassment Convention 2019 to eliminate GBV and address its root causes?
  • How can business enterprises integrate a gender perspective in conducting human rights due diligence throughout their operations and use their leverage to eliminate GBV in their supply chains?
  • What strategies should trade unions employ to prevent GBV and assist workers in overcoming gender-based discrimination?
  • What support should be provided to victims and survivors of GBV, and organization who work on these issues, in seeking effective remedies in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights?  
Background to the discussion 
Despite numerous laws at national and international levels, GBV is prevalent in all spheres of life: at home, in educational institutions, at work, in sports, in markets, in public transport, in social gatherings, in cyberspace and in the community generally. Although all individuals may experience GBV, women, girls and LGBTI people are disproportionately affected by GBV. The Covid-19 pandemic has also exposed vulnerabilities associated with GBV. In line with the theme of this year’s UN Forum, this session will address GBV faced by women, girls and LGBTI people in the business context. In many instances, GBV is rooted in discriminatory social norms, gender stereotypes and patriarchal power structures. Therefore, eliminating GBV and achieving substantive equality would require tackling these underlying causes of GBV.
In 2017, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released Standards of Conduct for Business Tackling Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, & Intersex People. In June 2019, the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights proposed a three-step gender framework (i.e., gender-responsive assessment, gender-transformative measures and gender-transformative remedies) as part of its gender guidance for the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. In the same month, the ILO adopted the Violence and Harassment Convention. This session will explore how states, businesses and other actors could draw inspiration from these international standards to take transformative steps to prevent and address GBV.

Additional background documents (pdf format) or relevant links

The session will help inform the WG’s project ‘Business and human rights: towards a decade of global implementation' (also known as “UNGPs 10+ / Next Decade BHR”). Centred around the upcoming tenth anniversary of the UNGPs in 2021, the project is taking stock of practice to date, identifying gaps and challenges, and developing a vision and roadmap for scaling up implementation of the UNGPs over the course of the next decade.

avatar for Surya Deva

Surya Deva

Vice-Chair, UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights

avatar for Chidi King

Chidi King

Director of the Equality Department, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)
Chidi is the Director of the Equality Department at the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the umbrella organisation for trade union national centres worldwide. Chidi has also worked on equality, employment rights and civil liberties issues with the UK Trade Union Congress... Read More →
avatar for Sudarsana Kundu

Sudarsana Kundu

Co-Executive Director, Gender at Work
Sudarsana Kundu is the co-Executive Director for Gender at Work Global, where she is working with a range of organizations to drive institutional change for advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment. Through her work leading UN Women's programmes on gender and governance... Read More →
avatar for Arianna Rossi

Arianna Rossi

ILO, Senior Researcher and Policy specialist, Better Work Global
I am Senior Research and Policy Specialist for the International Labour Organization-International Finance Corporation (ILO-IFC) Better Work programme. My work covers policy research, impact assessment and gender equality with a particular focus on working conditions and labour rights... Read More →
avatar for Nazhat Shameem Khan

Nazhat Shameem Khan

Permanent Representative of Fiji to the United Nations in Geneva, and to the WTO and Fiji’s Ambassador to Switzerland, Fiji Ministry of Foreign Affairs
avatar for Leslie Norton

Leslie Norton

Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Canada Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Leslie E. Norton (Diploma [Civilization and Literature], Aix-Marseille III University, 1985; BA Hons [English and French Literature], University of Western Ontario, 1988; MA [International Relations], Laval University, 1992) began her career in the Department of Foreign Affairs and... Read More →

Claudine McMahon

Vodafone Group

Zainab Patel

Director of Inclusion and Diversity, KPMG India

Wednesday November 18, 2020 10:20 - 11:40 CET
Plenary Room