Global policy on sexual violence needed to reach G20 goal of increasing women in employment

A global policy and uniform laws on sexual violence are needed to help reach the G20 goal of increasing the number of women in employment, according to a new paper which examines the links between sexual violence towards women and economic growth.

Numerous studies show that as women enter the workplace they find themselves at higher risk of violence from an intimate partner.

Catarina Sjölin, Nottingham Law School

A global policy and uniform laws on sexual violence are needed to help reach the G20 goal of increasing the number of women in employment, according to a new paper which examines the links between sexual violence towards women and economic growth.

Authored by Catarina Sjölin, barrister and senior lecturer at Nottingham Law School in the UK, and Felicity Gerry QC, researcher at Charles Darwin University in Australia, the paper sets out the case for empowering women by tackling sexual exploitation through legal uniformity, extra territoriality and corporate responsibility.

While definitions from the Geneva Conventions and the Rome Statute tackle serious forms of sexual violence in conflict, such as rape or enforced prostitution, the authors argue that the issue when it comes to the global economy and employment is sexual exploitation in all its forms.

Catarina Sjölin said: "It has been said that there are three key levers to achieve female workforce participation – changing stereotypes about work undertaken, policy changes in relation to incentives and childcare, and closing wage gaps and increasing the number of females in leadership positions. However, sexual violence in general, and domestic violence in particular, are also linked to female employment and education.

"Numerous studies show that as women enter the workplace they find themselves at higher risk of violence from an intimate partner, and women who experience economically controlling behaviour may be forbidden from getting a job, may have her earnings taken from her, or may be thrown out of the house. Poverty itself can also force women into high risk, poorly paid occupations such as sex work, making it harder for them to get into other, better employment.

"Even a fear of sexual violence oppresses women and leads to diminished self-esteem and a tendency to self-police employment options to their detriment."

To support the G20 target of bringing "more than 100 million women into the labour force in order to significantly increase global growth, and reduce poverty and inequality", the paper suggests that there must be a uniformity of law between G20 states.

Felicity Gerry QC said: "Ultimately, certain violent and sexual acts are the same wherever they are committed, but the difference in the definitions of these acts and attitudes to women's rights among the G20 countries is marked. Uniformity in legislative definitions, with agreements on issues such as extradition and historical offending, can allow global policy to progress."

The paper also sets out the advantages of working across borders and using good practice in one country to improve practice in another.

"With a transnational policy all G20 members can focus on common rules on the basis of their common interests. Progress in one member state can therefore directly influence another state which has not yet made such progress. Instead of the drive coming from women's groups or human rights groups, the drive can come from economic arguments" added Felicity.

With the rise of international 'super corporations' with economies which dwarf those of many countries, the paper also argues that these companies have a responsibility to impose a uniform ethical procurement strategy across the whole of their businesses. In addition, if there is uniformity in law and policy across the states in which they do business, as well as curtailing costs of complying with a number of regimes, they are on a level playing field with their competitors when it comes to not turning a blind eye to sexual exploitation in order to cut costs.

Summarising the paper, Catarina Sjolin said: "In highlighting the link between sexual violence and female employment which our paper seeks to demonstrate, it is hoped that the commitment by the G20 countries will stimulate a new impetus to tackling of sexual exploitation effectively globally. The implementation of uniform rules with extra-territorial effect at the personal and corporate level is likely to be more effective to achieve the G20 target and more."

Progress in one member state can therefore directly influence another state which has not yet made such progress.
Felicity Gerry QC, Charles Darwin University
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    About the authors of Achieving the G20 gender equality target by tackling sexual exploitation through legal uniformity, extra territoriality and corporate responsibility

    Felicity Gerry QCFelicity holds a research active post at Charles Darwin University focussing on data and rights, particularly in the context of violence against women and girls and the rule of law online. She lectures in crime, evidence, torts and practical advocacy and is Chair of the Research and Research Training Committee in the School of Law. She was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2014 after 20 years at the criminal Bar in England and Wales. She is also admitted to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory of Australia. She has been recognised in the Legal 500 as a “Fearless and effective advocate” and is co-author of The Sexual Offences Handbook (2nd Ed 2014). Visit Felicity's website.

    Catarina SjölinCatarina is a Senior Lecturer at Nottingham Law School, lecturing on criminal law and sentencing, with a research interest in criminal law and sexual offending in particular. She spent 15 years as a criminal barrister in England and co-authored The Sexual Offences Handbook with Felicity Gerry. Contact Catarina via email.

Global policy on sexual violence needed to reach G20 goal of increasing women in employment

Published on 23 July 2015
  • Category: Research; Nottingham Law School

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