Demand Compliance! Why is standing up for one’s right to work so important?

Human rights violations occur all over the world, primarily because of discrimination of varying degrees: in the family, at the institutional or national level. It has no boundaries, profoundly affecting the structure of global society. To be sure, over the years many countries have undergone a series of legislative and policy reforms to maximize support for the rights of vulnerable groups, and key principles are originally contained in many existing International Labor Organization conventions and recommendations, as well as in other instruments affecting rights (including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights). However, progress on employment is still highly unsatisfactory. Gender inequality, disclosure of the status of employees in the workplace, mandatory testing, banning people living with HIV from certain activities and professions, dismissal or denial of employment… The list of forms of discrimination against key populations (including women and children) in the socio-economic sphere is extensive, in parallel promoting the development of stigma in society.

Over the past three years, REActors in the regions of Southeast Europe and Central Asia have noted systematic institutional violations of the right “to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment”. Thus, the most widespread cases remain:

– The exclusion from collective activity of beneficiaries previously incarcerated (e.g., for drug use). 

– refusal to employ women because they belong to a key group (sex workers, PWUD community) or because they have children.

– mandatory HIV testing and dismissal due to positive HIV status

– negative, discriminatory attitude and humiliating actions from the team because of an employee’s HIV status, gross violation of his/her privacy.  

All these cases have several things in common: when faced with such a problem, the injured party experiences an inexpressible feeling of hopelessness, fear, and a desire to simply disappear from the life of the surrounding society. However, if the person found the strength not to close down alone with self-stigma and psychological pressure, but to share it with the REActor, then an important step has been taken toward solving and ending such situations. 

It is important to remember: only by uncovering existing problems and acknowledging discrimination and violations in the workplace can we further protect, respect, and fulfill human rights, through gender equality, dialogue, prevention, and support at all levels.

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