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Title: Addressing sexual harassment among students at a Durban university
Authors: Jagath, Sahara 
Issue Date: 2023
Sexual harassment and gender-based violence have become pervasive and normal within
South African society and is a matter of grave concern at colleges and universities. This study
seeks to address sexual harassment among students at a Durban university. The study
explores the understanding and perceptions that students attach to sexual harassment. The
nature, cause and consequences of sexual harassment, and student suggestions on ways to
reduce it, were examined. Ultimately a participatory action plan was implemented to tackle
sexual harassment at the university.
Drawing on Lorber’s (2000) social construction of gender theory approach, this study explored
the lived experiences of students at the university. The theory is based on the premise that
gender is constantly created and recreated during social interaction (Lorber, 2000). This
allowed for the understanding of students’ experiences within a social context. The literature
reviewed showed that gender relations and patriarchy contributed enormously to sexual
The study adopted the Interpretivist paradigm and qualitative methods to answer the research
questions. These approaches enabled data generation based on the participants’ interpretation
and lived experiences. The non-purposive sampling method was employed to select twenty
undergraduate students: twelve females; five males; one queer; and two bisexual participants.
Data was generated using individual interviews and focus group discussions.
The interpretive thematic analysis process of recognising, examining and identifying similarities
and differences and thereby finding themes within the data was used. Three broad themes
emerged, including who mainly perpetrated the sexual harassment; the nature of sexual
harassment; causes of sexual harassment (embedded in subscription to violent forms of
masculinity and socio-economic factors, confronting patriarchal discourses and resisting
victimhood). The study argued that it was within the broader context of violent forms of
masculinity and patriarchal power context that challenged and effectively silenced victims.
Data generated revealed that the participants held a diverse range of understanding of sexual
harassment and GBV. It was evident that sexual harassment was prevalent on campus. Female
students are exposed and the main victims of such, with the male students, the main
perpetrators. Students who are LGBTQIA⁺ were found to be vulnerable to sexual harassment
mainly due to their sexual orientation. The study revealed the need to create better awareness on what constitutes sexual harassment
and gender-based violence and participants suggested that victims, perpetrators and university
staff have to work collaboratively to tackle the scourge. Participants all concurred that there is
a need for focussed and ongoing education and awareness campaigns on campus.
Submitted in fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Master of Management Science
Specialising in Public Management (Peacebuilding) at the Durban University of Technology, Durban, South Africa, 2023.
Appears in Collections:Theses and dissertations (Management Sciences)

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