The South African government’s Code of Good Practice on Sexual Harassment defines sexual harassment as unwanted conduct of a sexual nature. The unwanted nature of sexual harassment separates it from behaviour that is welcome and mutual.

What are the different forms of sexual harassment?

Some forms of sexual harassment include:

Physical conduct

  • Unwanted touching or physical contact (e.g. an arm around the shoulder; a hand placed on a thigh or another part of the body; standing up against someone after being told to move away);
  • Being subjected to a strip search in the presence of someone of the opposite sex.

Verbal conduct

  • Cat calling – whistling, yelling sexually suggestive comments, usually at a stranger;
  • Unwanted flirting;
  • Jokes referring to sexual acts and/or sexual orientation;
  • Unwelcome graphic comments about a person’s body (e.g. “Look at those sexy legs” “Nice rack” “I like a curvy woman”);
  • Unwelcome and inappropriate enquiries about a person’s sex life;
  • Sexual favours – asking for sexual favours from a co-worker or peer;
  • Other sexual advancements.

Non-verbal conduct

  • Unwelcome gestures of a sexual nature – looking someone up and down in a way that makes that person feel uncomfortable, blocking someone’s path;
  • Indecent exposure (e.g. “flashing”);
  • Unwelcome display and/or sharing of sexually explicit pictures and objects.

Quid pro Quo – Something for Something

  • When an owner, employer, supervisor, member of management or co-employee influences conditions of employment or advancement in exchange for sexual favours, either explicitly or implicitly – this may include: access to training opportunities; consideration for employment, promotion and/or salary increase, and dismissal/disciplinary proceedings.