What is sexual harassment, and how can you deal with it?
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.
- How do I know it is sexual harassment?
- What are the different forms of sexual harassment?
- Where can sexual harassment occur?
- What can I do if I’ve experienced sexual harassment?
- What can I do if I see sexual harassment happening?
- Know your rights
What can I do if I’ve experienced sexual harassment?
Every situation is different so there is no ‘right’ response. Key to deciding what to do is your own safety. You may decide that no reaction is the safest response.
If you do decide to respond:
- Be firm and let the harasser know in a strong, clear voice that their behaviour is unacceptable. You could say: “What you are doing is sexual harassment.”
- Don’t engage in dialogue
- Keep moving
In the workplace
Sexual harassment in the workplace is an unfair labour practice and you can ask your employer to deal with it.
You have the right to:
- A workplace that is free from sexual harassment;
- Be treated with dignity and respect at work;
- Be treated equally, and not to be discriminated against because of race, gender and your HIV status;
- To report sexual harassment without fear of victimisation (ill-treatment);
- Have your complaint treated seriously and confidentially. Consult your workplace sexual harassment policy for next steps. You may be required to report to your HR Department, or if your organization has a whistleblower service, you may want to use that.
If the sexual harassment is persistent
If a person believes that they are continuously being harassed by someone, they can apply for a protection order in the Magistrate’s Court. Find a list here: http://www.justice.gov.za/contact/lowercourts_full.html
If the survivor is a minor, they can apply for a protection order on their own and do not have to be assisted by a parent or a guardian.
It is also possible for a person to make an application for a protection order on behalf of the victim/survivor. This means that, any person who has an interest in the wellbeing and safety of the victim/survivor can make an application. If the victim/survivor is older than 18 years of age, the written consent of the survivor is required to make an application on his/her behalf.
It is not a requirement for the victim/survivor to be in some sort of a relationship with the perpetrator. This means that the perpetrator can be any person, for example, a stranger to, a friend of or someone working with the complainant.