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Thursday, April 29, 2021

MoE must intervene to set up whistleblower policy, say NGOs

 Eighty eight non-governmental organisations and individuals have urged the Education Ministry to adopt a more serious and systematic intervention in tackling the “period spot checks” issue.  - NSTP file pic (For illustration purposes only)

KUALA LUMPUR: Eighty eight non-governmental organisations and individuals have urged the Education Ministry to adopt a more serious and systematic intervention in tackling the "period spot checks" issue.

A statement from the NGOs, which deal with women and human rights, said intervention should include a whistleblower policy that protects survivors and other individuals who provide information to the ministry about such forms of abuse.

They said the whistleblower policy should give protection to people who give details about schools and authority figures who conduct period spot checks, moral policing and other forms of sexual harassment.

"It should include an objective inquiry process into the alleged violations, which would include an objective third party such as Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), in order to ensure transparency and accountability.

"The results of the investigations should then be shared with the relevant authorities, including parents, child rights and women's rights NGOs, which can then be used as a basis for collaborations to form robust policies," they said in the statement issued today.

Among the 88 NGOs and individuals who signed the statement were the All Women's Action Society (AWAM), Women's Aid Organisation (WAO), Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) and Yayasan Chow Kit.

The NGOs said such investigations should lead to the development and institutionalisation of disciplinary guidelines in schools that clearly spell out zero tolerance of any conduct that violates children's rights and dignity.

"These conducts include period spot checks, sexual harassment and all forms of abuse, bullying and harassment."

They also called for several long-term solutions to be implemented, which include an improved and enforced existing teachers' code of conduct in teachers' colleges or institutions nationally.

"A newly-revised curriculum should be implemented for all teachers training institutes to include topics on gender sensitivity so future generation of teachers and educators do not perpetrate the toxic culture of abuse.

"Compulsory gender sensitisation training among current school authorities and teachers nationwide must be done to inculcate fundamental awareness of gender roles, power, physical boundaries and consent."

They said it was highly unlikely that the ministry would obtain such direct feedback from students or teachers sympathetic to the students. It is also doubtful that perpetrators are going to be willing to come forward.

"Current survivors are also likely traumatised and will not be in the best frame of mind to come forward with reports.

"We must not forget it is figures of authorities here that are the perpetrators and the children's trust in such figures are likely to be eroded.

"They are also likely to be suppressed within ecosystems that have indoctrinated its inhabitants with acceptability of period spot checks, body shaming as well as rape culture, and have silenced others who think otherwise.

"The Education Ministry (MOE) should always bear in mind that these are degrading and abusive treatments that violate the physical body and personal boundaries without consent.

"It is made even worse by the fact that most survivors here are or were underaged when these incidents happened," they said.

Bernama reported that some students on Twitter revealed the practice of "period spot checks" on female students during Ramadan at schools, claiming that they were also asked to take off their underwear to prove that they were menstruating and could be excused from fasting.

This led to Human Rights Commission of Malaysia's (Suhakam) Children's Commissioner Professor Datuk Noor Aziah Mohd Awal to lambast the matter on April 24. She described them as a violation of a child's rights and against the law as they carry elements of sexual harassment or abuse. - NST

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