PETALING JAYA: A group of 87 civil society organisations (CSOs) are calling on the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) to investigate allegations of spot checks on menstruation in schools.
In response to recent news reports quoting education minister Radzi Jidin as saying the ministry had yet to find evidence of such practices, the CSOs insisted that the authorities conduct a fair and comprehensive inquiry through an independent third party such as Suhakam.
“This is to ensure transparency and accountability,” they said in a joint statement today.
“The results of the investigations should then be shared with the authorities, including parents, child rights and women’s rights NGOs. This can then be used as a basis for collaborations to form robust policies.”
The CSOs also want to see a whistleblower policy that protects those who come forward to provide the ministry with further details about schools and figures of authority who have conducted such spot checks, moral policing and other forms of sexual harassment.
The CSOs called on all teachers’ training institutes to include topics on gender sensitivity so that future generations of teachers and educators do not perpetrate such abusive practices.
They are also pushing for compulsory gender sensitisation training among current school staff.
Among the CSOs which signed off on the statement include Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (Abim), All Women’s Action Society (AWAM), the National Patriots Association (Patriot), Sisters in Islam (SIS), Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) and the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO).
Several schoolgirls recounted to FMT last week their experiences of harassment in schools. Among them were accounts of teachers conducting physical checks to ascertain whether students were giving the menstruation excuse to avoid having to pray, fast or even to do physical exercises.
Noting that those who have been harassed find it difficult to come forward for fear of repercussions, especially if their perpetrators are in positions of power, the CSOs said it was “highly unlikely” that the ministry could obtain such direct feedback from students or any teachers sympathetic to the students.
“It is also doubtful that the perpetrators involved will willingly come forward.
“Survivors of such incidents are also likely traumatised and will not be in the best frame of mind to come forward.”