Bersatu’s women’s wing has called for an immediate investigation into reports of students being subjected to “period spot checks” during Ramadan in order to prove to their teachers that they are menstruating, labelling such acts as sexual harassment and abuse of power.
In a statement, exco Ainie Haziqah said this would mean having their private parts touched without consent as well as their underwear removed to show their menstrual pads.
“The fact that this mortifying misconduct is still happening to our students now without any measures being taken against the perpetrators is disgusting,” she said.
“We must stand together and put an end to what seems so shockingly common in our society.”
In one example of a debate on the matter that has been making the rounds on social media, a man by the name of Razif AR Al-Marbawi who claims to be a teacher asks in a Twitter post what other suggestions there are to ensure that female students do not lie about having their periods.
Another Twitter user, @azizanhariz, replies in the thread saying: “As long as you are not their parents or their God, you have no right. End of story.”
However, Razif, whose Twitter handle is @razif_rahim, responds saying: “As a teacher, I have the right to teach my students the right thing. End of story.”
Ainie warned that the trauma of such experiences could last a long time and could be “shattering, leaving the victim feeling traumatised, depressed and ashamed”.
“Sexual harassment has no place in a school,” she added. “If this persists, it will defeat the purpose of an educational institution entirely.”
She also praised those who had come forward to report their experiences, saying this requires “a great deal of courage”.
“Your voice is needed for the safety of other students in school and future generations to come,” she said.
Women’s rights groups All Women’s Action Society, Sisters in Islam and Pertubuhan Pembangunan Kendiri Wanita dan Gadis had also called for immediate action, listing period spot checks among incidents of physically invasive checks experienced by students.
“These incidents that are reported as happening in our educational institutions – kindergartens, primary schools, secondary schools, boarding schools including Maktab Rendah Sains Mara (MRSM), universities – reflect a systemic toxic culture of patriarchy, sexism, harassment, abuse, bullying and religious policing, with our nation’s young people on the receiving end.
“This denotes a chilling prediction for our future adult citizens,” they said in a joint statement.
They cited reports of religious teachers instructing girls to dab tissue or cotton buds on their private parts to show proof of blood, or to pull down their underwear to show them their sanitary napkins to ensure that they are not using periods as an excuse to skip prayers.
“These are degrading and abusive treatments that violate the physical body and personal boundaries all without consent, made even worse by the fact that most survivors here are or were underaged when these incidents happened.
“Under the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017 and outrage of modesty under Section 354 of the Penal Code, these cases would be considered criminal offences and are punishable by law.
“By carrying out such actions or allowing such actions to be carried out by teachers/wardens/matrons, our Malaysian school authorities are teaching all students that it is okay to violate another person’s body without their consent and treat them without respect or dignity,” they said.