Understanding sexual harassment amongst students at a selected University of KwaZulu-Natal campus.
Sexual harassment is a matter of concern both in the workplace and in educational institutions. This study explores the meanings that university students attach to sexual harassment and their suggestions for ways to reduce sexual harassment. The study was conducted at a selected University of KwaZulu-Natal campus. Lorber’s (1994) social construction of gender contention was used as a theoretical approach for this study. This theory holds that gender is constantly created and recreated out of human interaction (Lorber, 1994). Literature reviewed showed that gender was seen as the main factor contributing to sexual harassment. The study employs the interpretive paradigm and the qualitative approach. The two methodological approaches share the philosophical view that the truth is subjective. Combining these two approaches enabled me to generate data based on the participants’ interpretation of the phenomenon under study. Data was generated using focus group discussions and individual interviews. Sixteen students participated in focus group discussions and 12 in individual interviews. Data was analysed using the thematic analysis. Eight themes emerged and these include: What and Who of Sexual Harassment; Dressing and Sexuality; Power and Sexuality; Masculinity, Femininity and Sexuality; Internet, Social Networks and Sexual Harassment; Stigmatisation, Fear and Myths; Increasing Awareness leads to Reduction; and Student Support Structures and Services. Data generated from this study indicated that students hold a diverse range of understandings of sexual harassment. It was also found that sexual harassment was prevalent on campus. Female students face sexual harassment from men who are perceived to have more power than them. On the other hand, some men face sexual harassment from both men and women. Some gays and lesbians were found to be vulnerable to sexual harassment mainly because of their sexual orientation. Men were found to be the main perpetrators of sexual harassment while victims were both men and women. The outcome of this study indicates the need to create better awareness in the University community of behaviours that constitute sexual harassment. The majority of participants suggested that education and sexual harassment awareness was crucial in reducing sexual harassment on campus.
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