The Malaysian government should ratify the C190 to recognize the importance of decent work and productive employment as a realization of women’s rights and their ability to have safe and secure lives. 

The voices, rights and interest of women precariats in pursuing economic justice need to be highlighted so the relevant stakeholders can implement better policies and regulations to ensure decent work standards. 

This all-inclusive approach will not only benefit a small segment of society but it will also protect the rights of the majority of workers in the country. 

Why Malaysia must ratify ILO C190 

  1. Comprehensive definition of violence and harassment: C190 has stated that the term violence and harassment in the world of work refers to a range of unacceptable behaviour and practices against women workers that are likely to result in physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm, and include gender-based violence(GBV) and harassment. GBV includes sexual harassment, dismissal based on marital status, on the grounds of pregnancy, denial of maternity leave and lack of promotion to a higher position
  2. Broad coverage: C190 aims to fight violence in the world of work which covers areas beyond the actual workplace. This means that the world of work should cover ALL women in Malaysia, and is not restricted to just Malaysian women. 
  3. Expansion of work place: The world of work ranges from travelling to work, as well as facilities available in the workplace such as communications and accommodations including amenities for health and sanitation, online spaces and social gatherings.

Malaysia’s international obligations include:

Convention of Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)  Ratified in 1995

In 2018, the CEDAW Committee Concluding Observations on the combined third and fifth periodic reports of Malaysia include the following recommendations:

On Gender Based Violence Against Women

The CEDAW Committee recommends that the State Party:

  • Should adopt concrete measures to combat gender-based violence against women and girls, including the provision of mandatory, recurrent and effective capacity-building, education and training for members of the judiciary, lawyers and law enforcement officials and educational campaigns targeting men and boys.

On Employment

The CEDAW Committee recommends that the State Party:

  • Systematically review obstacles to women’s access to decision-making positions in the private sector and adopt holistic measures to remove barriers such as discriminatory stereotypes, gender bias in the workplace and family pressure on women to assume responsibilities in the home;
  • Ensure that targets and initiatives aimed at increasing the representation of women in decision-making positions in the private sector are accompanied by specific guidelines and mechanisms to ensure effective implementation, monitoring and evaluation;
  • Reduce the gender pay gap by regularly reviewing remuneration in sectors in which women are concentrated and establishing effective monitoring and regulatory mechanisms for employment and recruitment practices to ensure that the principle of equal pay for work of equal value is guaranteed in national legislation and adhered to in all sectors;
  • Ensure that there are adequate sanctions in law and in practice for the termination of employment on the basis of pregnancy;
  • Adopt a comprehensive law on sexual harassment that enables complainants to seek redress without the expenditure in time and money and without the public exposure associated with going to court.

On Migrant Workers Employed as Domestic Workers

The CEDAW Committee recommends that the State Party:

  • Ensure that migrant women employed as domestic workers are guaranteed the same level of protection and benefits as other migrant workers in law and in practice and that they have access to effective remedies and redress against abuse by employers;
  • Repeal the policy that prohibits migrant women employed as domestic workers from becoming pregnant on the grounds that, under normal circumstances, their contract of service is limited to two years;
  • Ensure that women migrant workers have access to affordable health-care services.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Malaysia also adopted the development agenda on Sustainable Development Goals 2030 (SDGs). In SDG goal 8 on decent work and economic growth has emphasized on the promotion in sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all. It recognizes that informal employment including women in precarious work has an impact on the adequacy of earning, occupational safety, health and working conditions.

In the effort of pursuing sustainable economic growth, the state has to ensure the reduction of informal employment and to promote safe and secure working environments to create decent work for all. 

Beijing+25

Malaysia is also one of the member states pledging on the commitment of women’s rights in Beijing Platform for Action to ensure women’s rights are protected. The state need to ensure the full enjoyment of women human rights and fundamental freedom and take effective action against violations of these rights and freedoms. The state should also be committed to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. Women workers have the right to enjoy their rights without discrimination in all spheres including in the world of work.

Specific Context: Women Precarious Workers
We believe this convention is critical especially for safeguarding precarious workers, especially women workers. The reasons are as follows: 

  1. The convention protects ALL workers, irrespective of their contractual status, covering all sectors in the public and private sectors, rural and urban, formal and informal economy in the world of work, which also include women precariats. 
  2. There is an increase in labour participation of women in the informal sector especially in the field of precarious work. Traditional gender stereotypes contribute to women being disproportionately affected by precarious work as they are expected to become primary caregivers which limit their working hours and job security. 
  3. Women in precarious work are vulnerable because they face uncertainties when it comes to their terms of employment, rights and wages. Lack in economic security and social protection in poor working conditions also expose them to the risks of violence and discrimination.

References: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg8

Photo by Chevanon Photography from Pexels

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