The South African Constitution promotes the Protection from Harassment Act, 2010 (Act No. 17 of 2010). All people in South Africa should be allowed and not denied their rights to equality, privacy, dignity, and security; according to the Act. In working situations, it can often be difficult to know and understand whether or not you have been harassed, and how to deal with it. This article will give you  a couple of guidelines about dealing with harassment.

The definition of “harassment” is stated below:

“Harassment means directly or indirectly engaging in conduct that the respondent knows or ought to know, causes harm or inspires the reasonable belief that harm may be caused to the complainant or a related person by unreasonably:

– following, watching, pursuing or accosting of the complainant or a related person, or loitering outside of or near the building or place where the complainant or related person resides, works, carries on business, studies or happens to be;

– engaging in verbal, electronic or any other communication aimed at the complainant or a related person, by any means, whether or not conversation ensues; or sending, delivering or causing the delivery of letters, telegrams, packages, facsimiles, electronic mail or other objects to the complainant or a related person or leaving them where they will be found by, given to, or brought to the attention of, the complainant or a related person;

– amounts to sexual harassment of the complainant or a related person…”

For further reading, click here. 

Harassment is often assumed to be sexual in nature but that is not necessarily the only form it takes. It can refer to psychological, physical, sexual, mental, or even economical. This means that a person can be harassed with a weapon, with words, with power, and so forth. This then leaves us with a very broad definition and may lend to the fact that harassment cases are not always as straight forward as others.

 

The first step towards stopping harassment is to let the person know that you feel uncomfortable and avoid contact with them. If this does not fix the problem, it is always helpful to learn about bullies or harassers and to learn signs of their typical behaviour. If the behaviour continues, begin keeping a record of events where you feel uncomfortable and if possible, allow people to witness such events. You can then plan and set up a meeting with your HR manager or supervisor. This meeting can be followed up and should hopefully lead to the end of harassment. If the harassment is far more serious and involved and cannot be dealt with, then you need to file a police report and try to get a restraining order.

Nobody likes to feel persecuted, used, abused, or embarrassed. Knowledge is power, and it is the first step towards empowering yourself as an individual. Now that you are aware of the laws that serve to protect you, do not be afraid to use them and protect yourself.