Photo/IllutrationParticipants applaud the approval by an overwhelming majority of an international convention against work-related violence and harassment. (Yu Yoshitake)

GENEVA--Japan voted June 21 to pass the first international convention on harassment and violence in the workplace, even though it still lacks appropriate domestic legal provisions on this issue.

Japan passed a law in May obligating companies to set up consultation sections to deal with suspected power harassment, but has yet to clearly spell out what constitutes harassment in the workplace or define penalties against offenders.

The business sector has long opposed a harsh crackdown on acts of harassment, fearing it could open endless lawsuits by victims seeking redress.

As it turned out, the business representative at the International Labor Organization's annual meeting here that voted on the new convention abstained while the labor representative and two government representatives cast votes in favor.

The convention defines violence and harassment as "a range of unacceptable behaviors and practices that result in, or are likely to result in physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm."

The convention covers not only acts of violence and harassment at the workplace, but also during work-related trips, commutes and work-related communications involving social networking sites and other means.

Nations that ratify the convention will be obligated to pass laws banning workplace violence and harassment and force employers to take steps to prevent such acts and adopt measures to protect and support victims.

There were some areas where a consensus could not be reached, so nations were given more discretion in deciding how to handle acts of violence and harassment involving third parties, such as business partners, as well as about those most vulnerable--sexual minorities, for example.

The convention will take effect a year after at least two nations have ratified it.

Japan will still have to pass laws banning violence and harassment in the workplace as well as implement penalties before it can ratify the convention.

Experts said penalties do not have to take the form of criminal punishment or fines, but could be defined as provisions that define the basis for granting compensation to victims.

However, business organizations have opposed even such wording, so it remains to be seen when Japan will be in a position to ratify the convention.

(This article was compiled from reports by Yu Yoshitake and Senior Staff Writer Takehiko Sawaji in Geneva and Koichi Murakami in Tokyo.)