Sexual harassment policy approved by Council

14 April 2008

The draft policy on sexual harassment has been approved by Council.

Speaking to Monday Paper, chair of the working group, Professor Jane Bennett of the African Gender Institute, said that while the policy is a milestone, it's important to note these are not new reforms. But they do bring UCT in line with national policies on sexual harassment and abuse, some of the most progressive legislation nationally.

"The policy conveys a very clear message on sexual harassment and abuse. We just won't tolerate it," Bennett said.

Implementation will mean new training programmes and resources, in particular augmenting capacity at the Discrimination and Harassment Office (DISCHO), headed by Francois Botha.

"It will enhance the centralised role of the DISCHO office in dealing with any form of harassment or discrimination," Botha said.

The main challenge now is for the working group to determine whether the policy is "doable" legally.

"In term of policy implantation we plan through the DVC and VC's office to make this part of even broader consultative process," Bennett said. "We must determine whether it's within the boundaries of justice, and whether it fits in with the university's policies."

She said it was vital that thee policy should not be seen as just another set of regulations.

"Everybody on campus is responsible for bringing the policy to life."

Nonetheless those in managerial positions will have to ensure they understand their responsibilities to their staff with regard to the policy.

"It's part of their formal job description to care," Bennett said.

But perhaps the most important aspect of the policy is that it's now possible to lay a charge of sexual assault or rape with the university and with the criminal justice system simultaneously.

"We want to offer victims the best possible support at the university," Bennett added. "It's not foolproof and we're expecting some complications. But it's a radical change."

The policy also provides support for those against whom allegations are made.

"Although we've pursued a victim-centred policy, we've also gone out of our way to embrace a rights culture, in line with constitutional values."

The next step is to create a simplified policy document for broad dissemination by the end of the year.

The process of policy reform involved a wide range of people, under the leadership of deputy vice-chancellor Professor Martin Hall, and included the insight of the Students Representative Council as well as academic staff and members of the Gender, Health and Justice Research Unit.

(You can find the policy on

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