The Protection from Harassment Act (Act 17 of 2011) came into effect on 27th April 2013 to address harassment and stalking behaviours which violate Constitutional provisions of right to privacy and dignity of individual persons.
The Act provides for inexpensive civil remedy to protect a person from behaviour which may not constitute a crime but may impact negatively on various rights of an individual.
What is harassment?
Harassment under the Act includes both direct and indirect conduct that either causes harm or that inspires the person complaining of harassment (“the complainant”) to reasonably believe that harm may be caused. Such conduct includes following, watching, pursuing or accosting of the complainant or someone in a close relationship with the complainant such as a spouse or family member.
Harassment also includes contact through verbal communication aimed at the complainant. The Act also recognises electronic communication that causes harm or makes the complainant feel in danger of being harmed as harassment.
The Act mentions several forms of written communication as capable of being contact for the purposes of harassment, such as letters, packages and e-mails.
It also includes sexual harassment, which means “any unwelcome sexual attention from a person who knows or who reasonably knows that such attention is unwelcome”. Such sexual attention includes unwelcome behaviour, suggestions, messages or remarks of a sexual nature that have the effect of “offending, intimidating or humiliating” the complainant or a person who has a close relationship with the complainant.
Persons who the Act seeks to protect
- All persons who are the victims of harassing behaviour and whose rights are infringed upon by harassing conduct
- Anyone who believes they are being harassed by another person can apply for a protection order under the Protection from Harassment Act.
- A child under the age of 18, or a person on behalf of a child, may apply for a protection order. This can be done without the assistance of the child’s parents.
- If a person is not able to apply for a protection order for himself, another person who has a real interest in stopping the harassment and the well-being of the person experiencing the harassment can apply for a protection order on that person’s behalf.
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