Women’s rights coalition urges transparency in probe against period spot checks, sexual harassment in schools

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The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality said that MoE has the responsibility to ensure quality education in a safe environment of learning. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality said that MoE has the responsibility to ensure quality education in a safe environment of learning. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, May 6 — A coalition of women’s rights organisations is urging the Ministry of Education (MoE) to be more transparent in its investigation into period spot checks and sexual harassment in schools.

In a statement to the press, the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) said that MoE has the responsibility to ensure quality education in a safe environment of learning that actively promotes values of respect for all persons and non-violence.

“This includes being transparent and timely in the current investigations on the issue of sexual harassment, bullying and abuse happening in our schools. The results of the investigations should then be used as the groundwork for a multi-sectoral collaborative response to this extremely serious issue.

“All of us — MoE, civil society, parents, teachers, the police — must come together to form sustainable solutions or risk having a society of young people forever scarred by their schooling experience,” the group said.

JAG said that it is willing and able to assist MoE in its investigations, adding that it has recently sent a letter to the ministry requesting for a meeting to discuss ways to address sexual harassment in schools.

“Three weeks ago, the systemic issue of sexual harassment in schools and niversities was brought to public attention, through the appalling stories on period spot checks, sexual harassment, bullying and abuse shared by current and former students online.

“This was met by resounding calls on key stakeholders to address this issue from various quarters of civil society, including members of Parliament, women’s and child rights groups as well as members of the public,” JAG said.

The group added how the issue was further highlighted when secondary student Ain Husniza Saiful Nizam called out a male physical education teacher for making rape jokes and subsequently received rape threats from a male classmate and online lewd comments for doing so.

“Since then, more survivors have come forward. To date, All Women’s Action Society (AWAM) has received 13 cases of gender-based violence against children in schools, in which 12 of them were sexual harassment and one was rape.

“Four of the sexual harassment cases involved refugee children. In all 12 sexual harassment cases, the teachers were the perpetrators,” the group said.

JAG said that sexual harassment can happen to anyone, and that its effects on the survivor can be wide-ranging and devastating, adding that survivors often experience poor academic outcomes or reduced work productivity as well as poor relationship quality due to the trauma faced.

“Among the psychological effects include self-blame, depression, low self-esteem and anxiety, with self-harm, suicidal ideation and suicide being among the most severe consequences,” they said.

The statement by JAG was endorsed by 13 members of their organisation, namely Awam, Association of Women Lawyers (AWL), EMPOWER Malaysia, Family Frontiers Malaysia, Justice for Sisters (JFS), KRYSS Network, Perak Women for Women (PWW), Sisters in Islam (SIS), Sabah Women’s Action-Resource Group (SAWO), Sarawak Women for Women Society (SWWS), Tenaganita, Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) and Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO).

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