Law against sexual harassment not vigorous: ILO

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The International Labor Organization (ILO) has welcomed Vietnam's amended Labor Code due to take effect next May, but said it does not go far enough and more should be done to prevent sexual harassment at the workplace.

Sandra Polaski, The ILO's social dialogue sector executive director, said governments, employers and trade unions should create a safe mechanism for complaints.

"Quite often victims of sexual harassment don't make complaints because they feel embarrassed and humiliated," she said in a statement Wednesday.

The amended Labor Code prohibits for the first time in Vietnam sexual harassment at the workplace.

According to a recent report by the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs and the ILO, most victims of sexual harassment are women aged between 18 and 30.

But the culture and fear of losing jobs prevent many victims from complaining, it added.

Polaski said Vietnam needs a "lot more statistics and data" on sexual harassment at the workplace in particular"¦ to help policymakers.

Nguyen Kim Lan, ILO national project coordinator on gender issues, pointed out a major shortcoming of the amended Labor Code: it fails to define the act of sexual harassment at the workplace.

"Without clear definitions, it would be difficult to enforce the law," she warned.

There was a recent case of sexual harassment that made it into the media. It happened at the Soc Trang General Hospital in the Mekong Delta in January. A nurse accused the head of the hospital's ENT ward of sexually harassing her while on duty, but the doctor insisted that it was not sexual abuse and he just "put his arm on her shoulder for fun."

He got away with a rebuke from his bosses.

According to the ILO, sexual harassment undermines gender equality at work and, by weakening work relationships, also productivity.

Polaski said the government should improve public awareness and vigorously enforce the new law to guarantee that women would not be subject to sexual harassment.

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