Thursday, May 27, 2021

Ministerial kerbau to stop sexual abuses in schools? NATO lah, Mafulat

Period spot checks: So many complaints, so little response

by Martin Vengadesan

More than a month has passed since Malaysiakini first wrote on April 22 about the practice of period spot checks being used as a form of harassment and intimidation of girls in Malaysian schools.

The story was prompted by social media sharing of the phenomenon and once the first article was published, more and more survivors had come forward to share their stories.

Zakiah (not her real name), a former student of the Maktab Rendah Sains Mara (MRSM) Tun Abdul Razak boarding school in Pekan, Pahang, is one former victim who was hoping for some firm action, after she was swiftly contacted by a Mara officer when she lodged a complaint on its website.

However, she has yet to hear any follow-up to the initial call despite Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara) chairperson Azizah Mohd Dun announcing on May 6 that it has completed its investigation and a statement would be issued soon.

“I am disappointed thus far with their lack of initiative as the Mara chairperson promised to release a statement soon.

“As an alumnus and trauma survivor (with many others), we hoped that Mara would at least be concerned over their students’ welfare as this can greatly jeopardise current and future students seeking education in MRSMs all over Malaysia.

“I hope action will be taken soon and this will not be swept under the carpet after innumerable stories have already been told, especially as it takes a lot for us trauma survivors to dig up the past and find peace within ourselves, because no one else would want to address this glaring issue,” Zakiah told Malaysiakini.

Mara chairperson Azizah Mohd Dun

MRSM schools were among those in a list of 15 schools where period spot checks were made on female students submitted by Malaysiakini on May 1 to Education Minister Mohd Radzi Md Jidin, who said his ministry’s investigations thus far found no indication that such practices existed.

“If it happens, tell me at which school, so action can be taken,” Radzi had said, adding that his ministry was also investigating if such incidents were taking place at boarding schools under the ministry.

In response, Malaysiakini has sent a copy of the list to Radzi, his deputies, Muslimin Yahaya and Mah Hang Soon, as well as the ministry’s secretary-general and Corporate Communications Department.

The list was sent along with other details, such as the dates of alleged offences (most of which dated from 2011 to 2018) and the wardens or teachers who were named by the students. The names of the alleged victims were not submitted.

Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto questioned the silence and lack of transparency from the Education Ministry in this matter.

“Three weeks ago, Malaysiakini had given the education minister a list of 15 schools that conducted period checks on girls as a method of curbing young Muslim girls from flouting their prayers. So what does this silence from the ministry mean?

“That they are investigating the matter or that they intend to be silent until the issue dies down? Or that it is not important enough to be addressed?” she asked.

“Malaysians need answers. The parents of these children subjected to such archaic, barbaric acts need answers. The children who had to endure this embarrassing treatment need answers,” Kasthuri added.

Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto

Has MOE issued a circular against this practice?

Fadhlina Sidek, head of legal and community development of Wanita PKR, also questioned if there were any steps taken to address the practice while investigations were supposedly ongoing.

“The question that remains unresolved is what action has been taken by the MOE regarding the complaints that have been submitted, and are there any instructions/circulars directing that all activities involving menstrual examination in all schools be stopped immediately?

“It must be stopped immediately as it is an act of invasion of dignity to a girl, bullying and sexual harassment,” Fadhlina said.

She called on the Education Ministry to clarify this issue immediately as complaints and records of the events that took place have been submitted.

“The MOE has previously made a commitment to investigate and take appropriate action on this issue.

“How can we make schools a safe place for students if the MOE is still careless, lazy and procrastinating in making a stand and announcing the results of the investigation?” Fahdlina added.

Education Minister Mohd Radzi Md Jidin

Silence despite widespread condemnation

The silence of the Education Ministry on the matter is all the more shocking, considering how widespread the condemnation of the practice has been.

Former ministers Anwar Ibrahim, Rafidah Aziz, Azalina Othman Said and Maszlee Malik have voiced their opposition to the practice, with Rafidah demanding that the Education Ministry put a stop to it and lay out clear ground rules on how schools, including boarding schools, treat students.

Former education minister Maszlee said such degrading practices must be stopped and condemned, and should have never happened anywhere, let alone in schools, where children should be safe and protected from any form of harm and abuse.

Women, Family, and Community Development Minister Rina Harun also expressed shock and vowed to engage with the relevant authorities to ensure this practice ends.

“This is unacceptable and shouldn’t happen in schools, I take this seriously.

“I will follow up with the relevant ministries, such as the Education Ministry, and Mara so that this doesn’t happen again,” Rina said last month.

Women, Family, and Community Development Minister Rina Harun

Penang mufti Wan Salim Wan Mohd Noor also told Malaysiakini that no one should embarrass another by checking the private parts of the individual for any reason because everyone has self-dignity that must be respected by others, including the right to cover the private parts of their body from being seen by others.

“Islam strictly forbids its followers from looking at other people’s aurat, even on the pretext of performing the required duties such as to prevent a female student from making excuses to abandon the obligation of prayer,” Wan Salim had said.

CUKUP CUKUP, sudah lah!

The practice was also condemned by women’s groups All Women’s Action Society (Awam), Sisters In Islam (SIS) and Pertubuhan Pembangunan Kendiri Wanita dan Gadis (Women:Girls), while the Malaysian Mental Health Association (MMHA) called the practice “a form of bullying” that can have a negative impact on young girls for many years afterwards.

Just last week Awam revealed that a study conducted across a 10-day period in April recorded 275 testimonials related to alleged sexual harassment and bullying incidents in schools, with 125 cases involving period spot checks, 108 bullying cases and 88 sexual harassment incidents.

Aside from the period spot check issue, the Education Ministry and its practices have also come under the spotlight after the “rape joke” highlighted by Form 5 student Ain Husniza Saiful Nizam.

1 comment:

  1. "The Great Malaysian Cover Up" or "The Great Malaysian Sweeping Under The Carpet" has already started.

    And the education minister is brazenly not responding at all.

    Pity because, it reinforces the view that "This is Malaysia, Truly Asia" where such things happen