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Thursday, April 29, 2021

Female teachers normalising ‘period spot checks’, says expert

 

Many in the country lack understanding on what constitutes sexual harassment and stay silent on ‘period spot checks’, says Dr Khansa Abdul Halim.

PETALING JAYA: “Period spot checks” in public schools have been normalised because it is conducted by female teachers, says a medical officer.

Dr Khansa Abdul Halim of the National Population and Family Development Board noted that many victims who experienced such spot checks had not realised it was a problem until later in life, as the perpetrators were of the same gender.

Speaking during a presentation on period shaming organised by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Malaysia, she said this was due to a lack of understanding on what constitutes sexual harassment.

“That is why a part of our society is still silent about this because they don’t see this as harassment,” she said today.

Although many victims have taken to social media and revealed their experiences of “period spot checks”, she said it was unfair to “leave the children to fight for and defend themselves”.

The issue initially gained traction when social activist Nalisa Alia Amin shared anonymous stories sent to her by former victims on her social media accounts.

Khansa called for written policies and better avenues for students and their parents to take action, adding that speaking up online alone would not solve the issue.

Meanwhile, All Women’s Action Society (AWAM) executive director Nisha Sabanayagam said the country had “weak and inadequate laws” to protect its women.

“One example is the Domestic Violence Act 1994. Malaysia was one of the first countries to have such an Act in Southeast Asia, yet we still have issues of this (domestic violence) happening because there are loopholes in the law,” said Nisha.

She urged the government to allow Parliament to reconvene and to table the Sexual Harassment Bill, which would allow individuals access to a special tribunal dealing with such cases.

Dr Narimah Awin, a technical advisor for sexual and reproductive health and rights at UNFPA Malaysia, said it was important to spread awareness about sexual harassment and push for better sex education in schools.

She also called for more inter-agency collaboration, the criminalisation of “period spot checks” and for the country to review its social norms, given that many teachers assumed their students would lie about their menstrual cycle.

FMT previously reported on Malaysian students who revealed the torment they faced in public schools, including “period spot checks”, public shaming and sexual harassment.

The students told of how some religious teachers (ustazah), doubtful if they were on their period, felt them up to check for menstrual pads. - FMT

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