South African Boys’ and Girls’ Different Experiences of Peer Sexual Harassment
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
Dr Therza Palm-Forster
Senior Lecturer, Department of Comparative Education and Education Management
Prof. Corene de Wet
Professor, Department of Comparative Education, University of the Free State