Nation, World + Society

Nearly 235 million women worldwide lack legal protections from sexual harassment at work

UCLA’s WORLD Policy Analysis Center report examines all 193 U.N. member states

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Sexual harrassment in workplace
UCLA WORLD Policy Analysis Center

“Gender discrimination in the workplace adversely affects employees and their families, and impedes the economic success of companies and countries,” said Dr. Jody Heymann, dean of the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.

More than one-third of the world’s countries do not have any laws prohibiting sexual harassment at work, leaving nearly 235 million working women without this important protection. A study by UCLA’s WORLD Policy Analysis Center also found that nearly 82 million working women live in 24 countries that do not have any legal protections against gender-based discrimination in compensation, promotions and/or demotions, or vocational training at work.

“Gender discrimination in the workplace adversely affects employees and their families, and impedes the economic success of companies and countries,” said Dr. Jody Heymann, founding director of the WORLD Policy Analysis Center and dean of the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. “While progress has been made, hundreds of millions of women face discrimination with no recourse, and women in underrepresented groups have the least protections. There are 152 countries that have prohibited discrimination in promotions and/or demotions based on gender, but only 126 countries guarantee protections from discrimination based on both gender and race/ethnicity.”

To understand whether countries are doing enough to prevent sexual harassment and gender discrimination at work, WORLD performed a comprehensive analysis of national laws and policies related to sexual harassment and employment discrimination in all 193 countries that are members of the United Nations.

Among the findings:

  • Legal gaps in legislation leave too many women vulnerable to sexual harassment during the workday: Sixty-eight countries do not have any workplace-specific prohibitions of sexual harassment.
  • Twenty-five countries do not extend any explicit protection from discrimination in workplace compensation.
  • There are 126 countries that protect women from discrimination in promotions and/or demotions based on both gender and race/ethnicity.

“It’s critical for all nations to have, and effectively enforce, laws that specifically protect against sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace,” Heymann said. “At the same time, recent events in the U.S. serve as an important reminder that even with laws in place, we will only make enough progress when all people and all institutions contribute to changing norms and practices.”

Read the full news release.

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