A growing body of evidence shows that 1 in 3 women worldwide experienced some types of Gender-based Violence in their family, social, and work life.
What is gender-based violence? What makes it different from other types of violence? Gender-based violence is identified as violence that is directed against an individual or a group of individuals based on their gender or sex. It is stemmed from gendered social injustice and inequality, deeply rooted in discriminatory cultural beliefs and perceived powerlessness of a marginal group: in general women and girls.
Some gender-based violence contributing factors include:
- cultural factors such as gender stereotypes and prejudice, normative expectations of femininity and masculinity or family-based gender roles, and a general acceptance of violence as part of the socio-cultural contract when gender stereotypes have not adhered;
- socio-economic factors such as limited access to education and training, lack of economic resources, resources scarcity, and poverty; and
- socio-political factors such as lack of representation of women in politics and leadership.
Gender-based violence can take on multiple forms: from its most common form: physical violence inflicted by an intimate partner, to acts of violence in the online spaces. Although there was no rigid classification, gender-based violence could be categorized into 6 (six) core types:
- physical violence;
- verbal violence;
- psychological violence;
- harassment, sexual harassment, and sexual violence;
- socio-economic violence; and
- domestic violence.
In many industries, in particular low-wage sectors, harassment and other forms of gender-based violence are ingrained in the workplace. Masculine culture and norms were very much ingrained and normalized in many industries, even in the feminine industry such as the garment industry. As such, mistreatment and violence are considered part of the job instead of a violation of worker and human rights.
In Indonesia, girls and women workers working in farms and factories, for instance, frequently face unwanted sexual advances, harassment, bullying, stalking and intimidation, physical abuse, and verbal abuse from their work colleagues, supervisors, or managers. Women retail workers often receive rude gestures, harassment, verbal abuse, and threats from their customers. Gender-based violence is so prevalent or perceived as normal, even office workers with higher educational backgrounds could not escape gendered harassment, intimidation, and discrimination at work.
Understanding the pervasiveness of gender-based violence committed in the world of work is tremendously difficult, because only a small percentage of survivors report the abuse. Many survivors of workplace violence do not come forward because they do not think they would be believed; fear they will lose their jobs or otherwise face retaliation and stigma for speaking out. Complaint rates may be even lower in certain industries due to informal work arrangements, unclear and weak management structures, and precarious jobs. Language barriers also likely influence underreported violence incidents.
Further, in a highly gendered society country such as Indonesia, all spectrum of gender-based violence has yet been acknowledged by State Law and Regulations. Gender-based bullying and harassment, for instance, are not stipulated in the Criminal Code. The perception of lack of awareness of law enforcement on the issue and their unconscious bias, also a complex judicial system deters survivors of violence from reporting such cases to the authority. Adding to that, social stigma as the other half of the responsible parties plastered by the society on violence survivors deters survivors to speak up even more.
Ignoring violence against women and girls in the workplace will negatively impacting workers, companies, and businesses. Studies suggest that gender-based violence taking a toll on worker’s physical and mental health, and thus company productivity overall. It likely increases OSH related and legal expenses. It creates a high turnover of skilled or trained workers. Moreover, it is harmful to the company’s image and reputation.
Although tolerating gender-based violence at the workplace is perilous, many workplaces have yet to have adequate preventive or redressal strategy to tackle gender-based violence. Even when a strategy existed, it might not be inclusively established (lack of representation of women), and workers and managers are not aware of the strategy, or all the same lack of awareness on the issue itself. Perhaps, lack of scientifically proven guidelines on preventing gender-based violence affects the scarcity of such organizational strategy.
For workplaces that have developed prevention of gender-based violence strategy, it generally consists of two means: providing workers with a safe place to work and plan to manage disruption. However, this form of approach undermines the fact that gender-based violence is stemmed from a bigger pool of issues such as toxic masculine corporate culture, individual discriminatory cultural beliefs, and gendered social norms. Further, this type of strategy does not holistically capture, let alone address, a complete picture of the issue: spectrum of violence, and a structured redressal system that offer survivor some remedies.
As workplace gender-based violence is fundamentally steemed from biased cultural beliefs and perceived uneven power relations, a sound prevention strategy should include ways and means to change a gendered culture by firstly acknowledging and defining the problem of workplace violence. This will lead an organization to register the manifestation of gender-based violence in the workplace which is then funneled to the risk assessment and analysis process.
Another key component of a sound strategy may perhaps an inclusively established zero-tolerance policy, signed and endorsed by the Top Management of the organization. A policy does not include specific processes or require specific and predetermined consequences, but simply stating the organizational motive and intention to denounce violence at work, that any types of gender-based violence at work are not acceptable.
Consistent enforcement of the policy is as important as establishing the policy itself. Workers would look to management to see whether a policy is integral to the organization, whether it is a consistently implemented set of rules, or whether it is only just another piece of paper. Thus, it is essential to translate the policy into reliable procedures thatset out risk mitigation measures and provide clear processes linked to company recruitment, performance assessment, and disciplinary procedures. The procedures shall also include responsible processes operating team may consist of internal experts such as HR, medical officer, and legal.
Further, the procedure shall include post-incident response, grievance mechanisms, and investigations procedures. Post-incident response processes will help to heal all affected by a violent incident at work, including co-workers and family. Whist, grievance, and investigation mechanism enable gender-based violence-related complaints and concerns to be treated in a structured, impartial, and confidential manner. Providing effective channels for reporting grievances that include an anonymous option can help to encourage workers to report.
Lastly, a prevention strategy on gender-based violence is of little use if the organization does not increase issue awareness and communicate it to its workers and managers. In many situations, workplace actions and decisions depend as much on managers’ and workers’ behavior as on strategy design and processes entail. The first step of changing “bad” behavior shall start from providing expert insight into why the behavior concerned is “bad”. Thus, an organization may provide regular training to introduce and sensitize workers and managers on gender-based violence key thoughts, zero-tolerance policy, the importance of a violence-free workplace, and the unacceptability of issues, and how to get access assistance when an incident happened.
 On 21 June 2019, the International Labour Organization introduced Convention No. 190 on the elimination of violence and harassment in the world of work, including gender-based violence, supplemented with Recommendation No. 2016 of violence and harassment. Indonesia, like many of the ILO member countries, has yet to ratify this Convention.