South African Boys’ and Girls’ Different Experiences of Peer Sexual Harassment

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Notwithstanding legal and constitutional provisions prohibiting sexual harassment in schools, there seems to be a culture of silence and acceptance surrounding harassment. An analysis of sexual harassment literature reveals that there are no studies that have measured the extent and context of the problem, as well as the differentiating experiences of boys and girls in school in the Free State Province of South Africa. The aim of this paper is to address the aforesaid hiatus in the sexual harassment literature. A self-reporting questionnaire was completed by 474 Grade 8-12 learners. We found, contrary to most research findings, that the greater threat to sexual harassment in schools is to boys. Results from the t-test indicated statistically significant differences (on a 99% level) between the boys and girls exposure for non-verbal and physical harassment. The data furthermore revealed that sexual harassment has a “public” character: the respondents were mostly harassed in classrooms, on the schoolyards and during school parties and sport events. Results from χ²-tests indicated that boys reported significantly more harassment than girls at school parties, at the cafeteria and in small groups. Girls on the other hand reported more harassment than boys in front of the whole class. Recommendations on how to address peer sexual harassment will also be provided.


Keywords: Free State Province of South Africa, Peer Sexual Harassment, Boys and Girls, Self-reporting Questionnaire
Stream: Education and Social Welfare
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr Therza Palm-Forster

Senior Lecturer, Department of Comparative Education and Education Management
School of Education, University of the Free State

Bloemfontein, Free State, South Africa

Senior lecturer in the Department of Comparative and Educational Management at the Free State University of South Africa. My field of speciality is in Gender Education Management issues which is also my field of interest in research.

Prof. Corene de Wet

Professor, Department of Comparative Education, University of the Free State
Bloemfontein, Free State, South Africa


Ref: I08P0267