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Sexual Harassment in the Court Building

The prevalence of sexual harassment within court buildings in South Africa is a pressing issue that demands urgent attention.

The International Bar Association’s (IBA) landmark report, “Us Too? Bullying and Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession,” shed light on the pervasive nature of this problem globally. Despite the lack of empirical data specific to Southern Africa, anecdotal evidence suggests that sexual harassment is a significant yet often hidden issue within the country’s court systems. Defined as unwelcome behaviour of a sexual nature that creates a hostile environment, sexual harassment undermines the rights and dignity of individuals, impeding their ability to work in a safe and respectful setting.

Recent reports from the Democratic Governance and Rights Unit (DGRU) further emphasise the severity of sexual harassment within South African Magistrates’ Courts. The Isidima survey report, launched in 2023, revealed alarming statistics, indicating that the magistracy is not immune to the broader societal issue of sexual harassment. Shockingly, nearly a quarter of magistrates reported experiencing physical harm or threats related to their work, while a concerning percentage of female magistrates disclosed incidents of sexual harassment, with perpetrators often being fellow magistrates. These findings underscore the critical need for immediate action to address sexual harassment within the judiciary, safeguarding the rights and well-being of all individuals involved in legal proceedings.