Mariam Mokhtar on “period checks”

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Religion is used as an excuse to commit wrongdoing and brow-beat the girl into submission.

The Department of Education must have known about the “period checks”. The DoE pretends to be clueless and will probably blame the checks on “rogue teachers”. So, where is Women Minister, Rina Harun’s (and Education Minister Radzi Jidin) directive to the schools to end these checks? Expressing shock alone is NOT good enough.

The period checks are not just sexual abuse. They are also about control, fear, shame and trust.

Afif Abd Halim/TMI

Religion is used as an EXCUSE to commit wrongdoing and brow-beat the girl into submission. These lecherous teachers are committing sexual assaults on the schoolgirls by molesting them and outraging their modesty.

If a man had groped a schoolgirl’s chest and groin, there is no question about it. He would face charges of outraging the girl’s modesty and sexual abuse; but in the period checks, most of the perpetrators were female. What then?

The female teachers, wardens and seniors would still be guilty of outraging the girl’s modesty. So, are period checks a form of state-sanctioned sexual harassment?

Will groping give lesbian teachers a field day because they could feel other girls’ bodies to their heart’s content under the guise of “disciplining” the children?

If children cannot be safe in schools, what should parents do? They are subjected to sexual harassment, mental and verbal abuse, and shame if they do not respond positively to their teacher’s demands.

Most of us assumed that it was just Muslim girls who were affected, but girls and boys from all races and religions, have come forward with stories about similar degrading treatment in public schools.

It is not just girls who were subjected to intimate checks. Boys’ genitals were groped by male teachers and wardens, to see if they were hiding mobile phones.

Period checks were performed, ostensibly to find out if a girl was menstruating because Islam forbids menstruating girls from ritual prayers or fasting.

Two levels of trust are being exhibited.

At one end of the trust scale, teachers do not trust the girls and think they are lying when they claim they are menstruating. Some teachers think the schoolgirls use the “I’ve got my period excuse” because they don’t want to attend prayer groups, or fast.

At the other end of the trust scale, some schoolgirls had full trust in their teacher’s actions. They were under the impression that “period checks” were normal practice.

They found being groped a shameful and humiliating experience. Some had their panties checked or were told to probe their vaginas with cotton buds, tissue or their fingers to show proof of blood. However, they trusted their teachers, wardens or seniors, and did not think of reporting this degrading check to their parents.

Also, it probably did not cross their minds, that their teachers have no real knowledge of their religion.

The girls were probably not aware that in Islam, no one checks on people to see what is stopping them from praying. The religion does not force them to pray if they do not feel like it. It does not encourage others to pry into their affairs. So, how well do these teachers, and the schoolgirls, know their religion?

Some schoolgirls did not want the further humiliation of being groped or having to display their panties in public, so they would attend prayers despite menstruating. Fear of being groped, has made them do something against their religion, which forbids ritual prayer if they have their period.

Today, many of these girls realise that it was sexual harassment.

It is inconceivable that no one in the Department of Education was unaware of these abhorrent practices.

Sex education in schools and proper religious education (not the wasabism claptrap) would have made the girls better informed.

Jim Lim, a Penangite and a former director of social services in a London borough, who has many years of working with troubled youths said, “It’s unbelievable that any person or any institution could sanction a religious diktat which allows the gathering of evidence by frisking young people.

“This is an institutional abuse of children in public and a crime against young people.

“If girls were to report this to social services, it would be investigated. If it goes on in British establishments, inspectors would come in, close it down if evidence came out. If there is strong evidence, it would become a criminal case.

“Such practices are not tolerated in Britain. It’s a crime.”

Other scandals in schools have been just as shocking. Children were beaten till they became traumatised and ran away. A few died, but the teachers who allegedly physically abused the children were not punished.

Some children suffered severe injuries from a beating, as in the case of Mohd Thakif Amin Mohd Gaddafi, whose limbs were amputated but subsequently died. His death was attributed to leptospirosis, a disease borne by rats.

Other children were burnt to death in a tahfiz school. The school had failed to provide adequate safety measures such as fire exits. Nothing came of that investigation.

One university student was allegedly sexually molested by her lecturer, who was not punished.

Rina Harun, Radzi Jidin and their respective ministries have been slow to act in the period checks scandal. They should resign or be sacked.

One wonders if anything will come of this latest exposé. More importantly, what is the quality of our teachers? – Rebuilding Malaysia