M'sians Share Disturbing Stories Of Period Spot Checks And Sexual Harassment In School

"I didn't register it as sexual harassment until much later in life," said a victim.

Cover image via Reuters/TODAY & The New Paper/The Straits Times

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Hundreds of Malaysians are coming out to share disturbing stories of sexual harassment and abuse they suffered while they were in school

The issue came to light when Twitter user and human rights activist @TerryDieHeiden wondered if 'period spot checks' were still being practised in boarding schools.

According to him, during the month of Ramadan, some ustazahs (women religious teachers) physically checked students to make sure they do not use menstruation as an excuse to escape fasting and prayers.

The teachers would force students to show them proof of their blood or reach down to touch their private parts to feel if they were wearing pads.

"A few years ago I asked about this, but is it still happening in schools and hostels in Malaysia?" the concerned netizen tweeted.

"It shouldn't be done because of invasion of privacy, " he reminded, adding that such cases should be reported to parents and the authorities.

To his dismay, many social media users reached out to him to tell him that the practice was still prevalent

A student shared that it was common practice for an ustazah in her boarding school to make girls on their periods line up and take off their underwear to prove it to her.

Meanwhile, another said her hostel warden often asked them to show their period blood on a piece of tissue or she will grope their buttocks or private parts to check if they were wearing pads.

"I didn't register it as sexual harassment until much later in life," said a victim.

As it was so normalised in school, many victims only realised the gravity of the issue with age.

"We disliked it but didn't know it was harassment, invasive, and wrong. We trusted them," the human rights activist said was a common theme among the replies he received.

The discussion led down a rabbit hole, with many more exposing other forms of sexual harassment and shaming that happens in schools

Many students said ustazs, teachers, hostel wardens, matrons, and prefects would often use the excuse of 'spot checks' to touch and molest them.

"There was once a spot check at 2am. Although this was a long time ago, I still think about it," someone said.

"They were searching for smartphones because we're not supposed to bring them to the hostel. We girls were groped from top to bottom and they even asked us to take off our shoes."

Another said her teachers also often abused their power and asked students to unhook their bras during spot checks. If the teachers were not satisfied, they felt across the girls' chests to make sure they were not hiding anything that should be confiscated.

"Thinking back, I feel so disgusted letting someone touch my body like that," said the victim.

With the numerous stories, many are now hoping for awareness to put these dehumanising practices to a stop

Twitter user and social activist @naslisaaliaamin has requested victims to share their stories with her to bring awareness to this disturbing reality in many public schools and institutions.

"I've received almost 100 stories at the moment. Real experiences from women and men. All [harassment] under the guise of religion and discipline towards adolescents," she said.

She urged victims to speak up and protect future generations of students from authorities who trivialise these issues in the name of protecting perpetrators and school reputations.

"All we want is justice and accountability. A tighter policy to protect current and future children to ban all these practices now!"

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are also calling on the Ministry of Eduation (MOE) and Majlis Amanah Rakyat (MARA) to start an investigative task force into the systemic issue

All Women's Action Society (AWAM), Pertubuhan Pembangunan Kendiri Wanita dan Gadis (WOMEN:girls), and Sisters In Islam (SIS) said many of the cases put forward on social media can be considered sexual offences.

"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," said the NGOs.

These offences can be punishable under the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017 and under Section 354 of the Penal Code for outrage of modesty.

The NGOs said it was about time that crucial stakeholders such as the MOE, government agencies, and parents collaborate to create a zero tolerance policy towards sexual violations in schools.

These Malaysian organisations aim to help survivors of rape and sexual assault:

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Operating hours: Weekdays (9am - 5pm)
Contact: +604-2280342 | +604-3988340
WhatsApp: +6011-31084001 | +6016-4390698
Email: [email protected]
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Operating hours: Monday to Friday (9am to 5.30pm)
Contact: +6082-422660
SMS/WhatsApp: +6013-8044285
Email: [email protected] 
Website | Facebook | Twitter

Operating hours: Monday to Friday (9am to 2pm)
Contact: +6088-280200
Email: [email protected] 
Website | Facebook | Twitter

Operating hours: Monday to Friday (8.30am to 5.30pm)
Contact: +6016-2273065 | +6016-7213065
WhatsApp: +6016-7213065
Email: [email protected] 
Website | Facebook | Twitter

Anonymously and confidentially report child sexual abuse content and non-photographic child sexual abuse images with IWF’s Reporting Portal.

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