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Girls & Women

Some 200 Million Women Work Without Laws Against Sexual Harassment, Study Finds

By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK, Oct 27 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - More than a third of countries do not have laws against sexual harassment in the workplace, leaving more than 200 million women without legal protection on the job, according to a new study.

Globally, nearly 82 million women work in countries without laws against gender discrimination in pay and promotions, said the study by the WORLD Policy Analysis Center at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Working conditions for women have been in the spotlight with highly publicized claims of sexual harassment and assault made by top actresses against movie producer Harvey Weinstein. He has denied having non-consensual sex with anyone.

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Other women have emerged to accuse more figures in the entertainment and media industries, and millions of women have flooded social media recounting being sexually harassed or assaulted by bosses, colleagues and others in a #MeToo campaign .

Globally, 68 countries do not prohibit sexual harassment at the workplace, according to the study that looked at laws in all 193 member states of the United Nations.

Nearly 235 million women work in these 68 countries.

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Having no legal protection at work affects non-working women as well who might have left or avoid jobs due to harassment, said Jody Heymann, founding director of the WORLD Center and the study's lead investigator.

"In those 68 countries there are 424 million working-age women, so this is just an enormous number of women and a third of the world's countries where there are no protections for sexual harassment," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The study found three-quarters of countries prohibit gender-based discrimination in promotions, but "large gaps" remain.

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Most countries have laws to protect women's right to equal pay, but fewer than half guarantee equal pay for work of equal value on the basis of gender, it said.

"We've obviously seen that even once those protections are in place, having them well implemented is essential, but you can't even begin to address it unless you have the laws in place," Heymann said.

(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)