Recent reports of “period spot checks” which occurred in a boarding school have unveiled an ugly truth that for decades has haunted many Muslim and non-Muslim female students in learning institutions under various educational streams.
During such spot checks, female students are usually instructed to show physical proof they are menstruating either by producing a soiled sanitary pad, showing tissue swipes of menstruation or, in some extreme cases, having their crotch groped by the teacher for evidence of a sanitary pad.
This practice is evidently commonplace in boarding schools and even some day schools either by teachers, school prefects or fellow students who are assigned this despicable task by their teachers.
Teachers and students who have defended the act claim it is to make sure that female Muslim students do not “lie” about their menstruation and are fit to perform their religious obligations, such as praying and fasting.
Non-Muslim students are asked to show proof of menstruation so that they do not skip physical and health education activities.
Many female students have silently suffered trauma and humiliation after being subjected to such checks, often done in the presence of other students and witnesses.
This revolting practice is a clear violation of the students’ rights, especially their right to privacy. It is nothing less than sexual harassment and abuse. Indeed, it signifies abuse of power by the teachers and other ‘official’ perpetrators.
The Malaysian Academic Movement (Gerak) strongly condemns this Stone Age practice in all learning institutions. We call on the Ministry of Education to investigate this matter and take immediate and strong action against teachers who practise it.
Schools are supposed to be safe spaces for students to get an education and to learn. And teachers are obligated to provide the students a conducive space to enhance their learning – and not to violate the students’ rights and privacy.
It is high time that the practice of force in religious teachings in learning institutions is scrutinised and immediately discontinued.
Gerak also believes that there must be a policy in place to redress such violations in learning institutions, including providing counselling services for students who have been subjected to such abuse. The offending and abusive teachers should be dismissed from the teaching profession, and the parents of the affected students should consider taking legal action against them. – Gerak