International Legal Framework
last updated 14 September 2007


This section discusses the international conventions, instruments and reports that directly address or are relevant to sexual harassment in the workplace. These documents include U.N. conventions, U.N. conference documents, the U.N. Declaration for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, reports of the Special Rapporteur for Violence Against Women, and International Labor Organization conventions and guidance. These international agreements, declarations and reports (1) address sexual harassment as a prohibited form of violence against women or an obstacle to development or (2) guarantee rights which are violated by sexually harassing conduct, i.e., the right to be free from sex discrimination, the right to a healthy and safe working environment and the right to individual dignity in the work place. Even where sexual harassment is directly addressed in these documents, the term may not be precisely defined. Definitions of sexual harassment can be found primarily in law and policy adopted by national governments and regional organizations, such as the European Union.

The United Nations General Assembly in December 2006, passed a Resolution 61/143 calling for the “Intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women.”  The Resolution reaffirmed all of the various UN Conventions, Conference Documents and other international instruments and efforts aimed at protecting and promoting human rights and eliminating violence against women, noted the “pervasiveness of violence against women and girls in all its forms and manifestations worldwide,” and reiterated “the need to intensify efforts to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls throughout the world.”  The Resolution also took note of a recent study by the UN Secretary General on all forms of violence and discrimination against women, and well as the work of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences.