A college in Setapak, Malaysia, allegedly conducted a "period spot check" among its female students.
According to a tweet by a user @tashny (Tashny Sukumaran) on Oct. 26, she received a whistleblower's message from someone claiming to attend ERT Vocational College in Setapak, Malaysia.
Sukumaran's Twitter bio states that she is a senior analyst with a Malaysian think tank, concerned with issues such as human rights law, gender and migration.
Last week I received a message from a whistleblower who attends Kolej Vokasional ERT Setapak. On 18 Oct at around 7.50pm, she and about 30 other young women (aged 18-19) were rounded up, given cotton buds and asked to 'prove' that they were on their period.— Tashny Sukumaran (@tashny) October 26, 2021
She claimed that on Oct. 18, at about 7.50pm, the whistleblower, together with about 30 other young women aged 18 to 19 years old, were "rounded-up" and were given cotton buds to "prove that they were on their period".
It was unclear who gave the instruction to conduct the spot check.
In the Twitter thread, @tashny wrote that her informant told her some students had "pushed back" on being checked as they were uncomfortable with going through the process.
They were then told to perform their prayers if they were not comfortable with being checked. Based on Islamic ruling, women who are on their period are excused from performing prayers.
The whistleblower further claimed that her college has been conducting these spot checks for a "good long while", but it was paused after the issue came to national prominence earlier this year, before starting again.
Caught attention of education minister
The incident caught the attention of Malaysia's Education Minister, Radzi Jidin, who paid a visit to the college to "get more information" on the alleged menstrual spot checks.
Sejurus tiba dari Kuching di KLIA, saya terus ke sebuah sekolah di Setapak, Kuala Lumpur bagi mendapatkan maklumat berhubung dakwaan berlaku amalan pemeriksaan haid secara fizikal dalam kalangan murid perempuan.— Radzi Jidin (@RadziJidin) October 26, 2021
In a tweet on Oct. 27, Radzi said that his ministry "takes the matter seriously", and added that the ministry is "committed to ending such practices".
He also wrote that he had heard explanations from the teachers and principal of the college and listened to students' feedback.
Radzi said the ministry "is committed to providing a safe and conducive hostel and schooling environment".
Not the first time issue was raised
Earlier in April this year, the issue of period spot checks caught national attention as several women shared their experiences online.
Malaysiakini reported women having to show "their blood-soaked sanitary pads, doing swabs of their vagina with either cotton buds, tissues, or their fingers, or having a teacher, warden or school prefect pat them down at the groin to feel if they are wearing a sanitary pad" to prove that they were on their period.
The report added that most of the girls who contacted the news outlet said they were from boarding schools, day schools and Islamic private schools.
Malaysia's Human Rights Commission (Suhakam), a Malaysian government agency, described the practice as a violation of a child's rights and may carry elements of abuse or sexual harassment, that might go against the law, New Straits Times reported.
In June, Radzi said that the ministry was in its final process of establishing a new committee to look into the practice, Malaysiakini reported.
"There will be a more comprehensive procedure in this context to allow us if such complaints were to arise in future, address it in a more planned manner," he said.
Netizens share their displeasure
Malaysian netizens were displeased that the practice is still supposedly happening in that school, and called to end the practice.
Period spot checks literally need to stop it’s so invasive and you’re doing nothing but building distrust between students and teachers, as well as treating young girls like they’re objects.— lia (@inhutaszone) October 27, 2021
The practice of period spot checks should be stopped. I have commented on this issue on behalf of UNICEF Malaysia on why we should stop this practice and how can we empower girls to report here: https://t.co/vpYUtQkyx3 https://t.co/tFCxU4FZ0V— Emmelynn | Amaline (@emmelynnamal) October 27, 2021
Those doing period spot checks must be charged and jail. Melampau sangat, macam mereka tu suci murni! Using cotton bud? That is amounting to molesting the girls by asking them to insert object into their vagina!!! https://t.co/mFAImdzDlJ— Hayati Ismail (@hayaaty) October 27, 2021
The issue also prompted Malaysia's controversial political graphic designer Fahmi Reza to call for an end to period spot checks in schools.
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