WOMEN’S labor groups are calling for the immediate implementation of the International Labour Organization’s Convention No. 190 (ILO C190) to promote safety for women in the workplace.

Last December, the Philippine government ratified ILO C190, “recognizing the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment, including gender-based violence and harassment.”

On Saturday, women trade union leaders gathering for the launch of National Women’s Month anchored their theme on the localization of ILO C190 for the benefit of women workers.

“Against the backdrop of continued attacks against workers’ right to freedom of association, the continued killings, illegal arrests, surveillance, red tagging of trade unionists — the ratification of C190 provided a much-needed victory for workers,” said Annie E. Geron, Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK) president and Women Worker’s United (WWU) co-convenor in a press statement.

Despite various laws that aim to protect women in the workplace, ILO Manila Director Khalid Hassan told Saturday’s forum that “mostly, cases of such violence remain unreported [due to] reluctance and fear of speaking up in the workplace.”

This could be a reflection of “insufficient mechanisms” in place, he said.

Arlene D. Golloso, Federation of Free Workers (FFW) board member and Ateneo de Davao University Employees Union president, cited the lack of Committees on Decorum and Investigation (CODIs) in establishments.

CODI is a workplace-based tool for addressing sexual harassment cases under the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995 (RA 7877).

“It’s not just protection, but prevention. There are laws, that include the Safe Spaces Act, but the gaps are in the lack of awareness of workers on what is acceptable behavior or not. We need a mechanism that protects a victim who reports gender-based violence,” Ms. Golloso said.

“[ILO C.190] will encourage behavior that prevents discrimination and inequality that are rooted in patriarchy and the dominance of those in power…it will make it incumbent upon Philippine laws and practice to protect victims who report incidence of violence and stop victim-blaming,” FFW Vice-President Julius H. Cainglet told BusinessWorld via iMessage.

The Philippines became the first Asian country to ratify ILO C190 on Feb. 20. — Chloe Mari A. Hufana