PETALING JAYA: Civil society groups, women and children’s rights activists have issued a rallying cry calling for immediate action from the government to stop some purported abusive acts in schools.
This comes after numerous disclosures from students and adults on social media of the torment they allegedly faced at school, including “period checks”, sexual harassment, public shaming and bullying.
“No child should be violated like this, and especially not at school which should be one of the safest places for them, ” said Suhakam Children’s Commissioner Prof Datuk Noor Aziah Mohd Awal.
The All Women’s Action Society (AWAM), WOMEN: girls (officially known as Pertubuhan Pembangunan Kendiri Wanita dan Gadis) and Sisters In Islam (SIS) issued a statement calling on the Education Minister to set up an investigative task force, starting with the state boarding schools to “collect empirical evidence and factual insights" from the students themselves.
“Survivors should be given full assurance of safety and privacy, with their identities kept confidential, ” the NGOs said in the statement, adding that there must be "robust policies, including restorative remedies" against such abuse.
The issue came to light when a Twitter user recently tweeted about whether "period spot checks" were still being practised in boarding schools, including the MRSM schools.
He said that it was a practice during the month of Ramadan for some ustazahs to conduct spot checks and demand "proof" to make sure students didn't use menstruation as a means to get out of prayers and fasting.
Many responded to the tweet with their own horror stories of being harassed, violated and shamed.
Some recounted how they had to regularly undergo body checks for "forbidden items" such as jewellery or phones.
"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 under-aged when these incidents happened," the statement said.
Since the expose of abuse, Mara chairman Azizah Mohd Dun has said it had begun internal investigation into its schools following claims by students of the period spot checks.
Prof Noor Aziah believes that the call to set up a task force to address these issues is a step in the right direction.
“This is a serious issue that has been happening for decades and it needs to be stopped. I urge the government and related agencies to fully cooperate – as this is indeed a matter of all our children’s - the children of Malaysia’s - future, ” she said.