Sexual harassment and cultural norms are inextricably linked. One need look no further than Cambodia’s Labour Law, which is not alone in conceptualising sexual harassment as a violation of female decency and modesty.  However, at the level of international law, sexual harassment is understood as a violation of rights to equality and non-discrimination, not on essentialised gender stereotypes. 

In June 2019, the first global instrument on gender-based violence and harassment (GBV/H) at work, the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 190 (C190) was passed. It supplements this non-discrimination framing with an Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) approach, which facilitates an incremental, participatory approach to transforming gendered cultural norms in the workplace.

While sexual harassment was not on the agenda in 1979 when the United Nations’ Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) came into force, by 1990 General Recommendation 19, defined GBV as a violation of the right to equality, explaining that traditional stereotypical attitudes keep women subordinate at work and contribute to harrassment. CEDAW’s view of the harms of stereotyping is reflected in article 2(f), which obliges states to modify or abolish laws, regulations, customs, and practices which discriminate against women.”