WCO marks International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

25 November 2022

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