“Just Shut Up and Take It”: South African University Students on Sexual Harassment





sexual harassment, masculinity, non-reporting, university students


Sexual harassment and gender-based violence have become pervasive and normal within South African society. This trend is of grave concern at colleges and universities. Drawing on the social construction of the gender theory approach, this study explored the perceptions and experiences of sexual harassment among students at a South African university. The nature and causes of sexual harassment were examined. Twenty undergraduate students—twelve females, five males, one queer and two bisexual students—participated in this study. Data was generated using individual interviews and focus group discussions. Sexual harassment was prevalent at the university in the form of verbal, non-verbal and physical harassment. We argue that harassment stems from broader constructs of masculinity and patriarchal power that challenge and effectively silence victims. Non-reporting of harassment largely sanctions sexual harassment at the university. Female students were the main victims of gender-based violence with male students being the main perpetrators. LGBTQIA students were found to be vulnerable to harassment, mainly because of their sexual preference. The study revealed the need to create better awareness of what constitutes sexual harassment and gender-based violence and suggests that victims, perpetrators and university staff collaborate to tackle the scourge. We propose the necessity for focused and ongoing education and awareness campaigns on campus.


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How to Cite

Jagath, S. and Hamlall, V. (2024) “‘Just Shut Up and Take It’: South African University Students on Sexual Harassment”, African Journal of Inter/Multidisciplinary Studies, 6(1), pp. 1–11. doi: 10.51415/ajims.v6i1.1284.