WCO - World Customs Organization

11/25/2022 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 11/25/2022 03:22

WCO marks International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

The World Customs Organization (WCO) - with its Virtual Working Group on Gender Equality and Diversity (GED) taking the lead - recognizes that it is important for Customs to join the international community in marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign under the theme "UNiTE! Activism to End Violence against Women & Girls!" led by UN Women.

On this day, the WCO wishes to reaffirm its commitment to preventing and combating gender-based violence, and point out that this forms part of the Declaration for Gender Equality and Diversity in Customs endorsed in December 2020 by WCO Members, with the commitment to prevent "…any type of harassment and/or gender-based violence in all areas of Customs, among staff or committed by staff towards the public and vice versa".

"To comply with this Declaration, Customs administrations should implement the necessary measures to prevent this type of abuse and protect employees and stakeholders from it", said WCO Secretary General Dr. Kunio Mikuriya. "This is also fully in line with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5.2, which aims at eliminating all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres," he added.

Gender-based violence (GBV), which can take different forms of physical, sexual and/or psychological harm, continues to be a global concern which negatively affects the safety and health of, primarily, women, and prevents the victims of this violence from participating fully in society. This violence not only has severe, long-term impacts on individuals, but also causes major costs to societies as a whole.

According to figures from UN Women, one out of three women globally experiences physical or sexual violence, mostly by an intimate partner.[1] While there are already international agreements[2] and many national laws on domestic violence and sexual harassment in the workplace, there are still significant challenges to enforce their provisions.

GBV remains a hidden and unspoken problem, and the stigma around talking about this makes it difficult to identify violence when it occurs. Figures from UN Women show that only about 40% of the victims of this type of violence seek help.[3] This is why it is so important to come up with easier ways for victims to report violence, and ensure proper structures are in place to support them.

"We are committed to supporting female employees who are experiencing GBV in whatever circumstances," said Ms. Suzyo Musukwa Ng'andu of Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA), who is Chair of the WCO's Virtual Working Group on GED. "We need to promote a change of mindset to ensure that women feel safe to report on both GBV and sexual harassment, both at home and in the workplace," she added.

Gender-Based Violence and harassment (also covering sexual harassment) are addressed in the WCO Gender Equality Organizational Assessment Tool (GEOAT), a self-assessment tool for Customs administrations to promote gender responsive and inclusive measures. It provides Customs with guidelines on how to prevent such violence and harmful acts, and how to support the victims.

The GEOAT recommends that Customs administrations audit incidents of GBV and conduct awareness-raising activities for staff and training for managers to detect and manage such situations. Customs administrations are also advised to have a platform and reporting mechanisms in place to encourage victims to come forward, as well as a resource network with, for instance, counsellors who can provide assistance to victims.

The WCO reaffirms its commitment to carry on promoting and supporting the advancement of gender equality and diversity among its Members, and to continue working closely with its international partners to move this agenda forward.

[1]What we do: Ending violence against women | UN Women - Headquarters

[2] Such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women adopted in 1979 and the 1993 UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against women

[3]What we do: Ending violence against women | UN Women - Headquarters

  • Indonesia Customs is working on preventing GBV both at the policy and by implementing various activities.

    The administration has developed a policy to prevent violent behaviours and support victims of sexual harassment.

    In terms of activities, Indonesia Customs is guided by its own Gender Analysis Pathway tool and the WCO GEOAT. Its most recent initiatives include the launch of a discussion group on the prevention of sexual harassment, to raise awareness about this issue among employees.

  • The South African Revenue Service (SARS) has developed a plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide which provides a cohesive, strategic framework to guide the institution's response to this issue. SARS aspires to create a safe, diverse, equal, inclusive, conducive and Gender-Based Violence Free environment for all to realise their full potential.

    In 2019, SARS drafted a pledge - "SARS says NO to GBV" - outlining SARS' commitment to making the administration a GBV free zone and encouraging employees to speak up against any incidents of violence, harassment or intimidation. The pledge has been signed by 95% of employees to date.

    In 2020, SARS also established Men's Forums in several regions to provide male employees, supported by their female colleagues, with a platform to discuss and find solutions to the challenges faced by men in the workplace, and in society, that can lead to gender inequality and gender-based violence.

    To further raise awareness about GBV, SARS has communicated widely on its stance on GBVF, through various means such as internal communications, survivor testimonies, leadership and speeches by experts in the subject. With "SARS says NO to GBV" posters displayed at all SARS offices and premises, including border posts, SARS aims to further raise awareness among staff and external stakeholders.

    Ongoing support is provided to all complainants and victims of GBV through the Gender Equality and Persons with Disabilities Unit, the Wellness Unit and the SARS Employee Assistance programme.

  • The Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA), through its policies on Gender-Based Violence (developed in 2021) and on Anti-Sexual Harassment, is manifesting its commitment to raising awareness on GBV and the consequences of such abusive offences within or outside the workplace. It also provides a clear framework on how the administration can provide support to victims, including specific guidance for managers.

    In addition, on 10 October 2022 the administration launched a Peer Support Network, with 25 employees ready to offer staff a first-level intervention on GBV among other psycho-social needs. Thereafter, access is open to the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) which has an external network of counsellors and which, if required, can be extended to family members at the administration's expense.

    Considering that JCA is a women dominated administration, JCA has also expanded its Gender Focal Point network to include three male representatives, who advocate for a balance of perspectives as well as articulating concerns for men as they are a group of the work force.

  • Peru Customs (SUNAT) has developed an Institutional Strategy on Preventing Sexual Harassment, which focuses on the factors that generate violence, on preventing such acts from escalating (or recurring once they have already occurred), and on responding to the victims' needs.

    In addition, SUNAT has conducted a survey on sexual harassment among staff, which identified many misperceptions related to this topic. The administration has also developed a dedicated e-learning course which covers the entire process, from the prevention of sexual harassment to sanctions; the course has been completed by more than 2800 employees.