[PRESS STATEMENT] Call for National School Walkout Day

Illustration by Fahmi Reza

Youth and Student Activists have joined in solidarity with the #MakeSchoolASaferPlace movement, as well as students and ex-students who came forward with their stories. The recent accounts of rape jokes, sexual harassment, and period spot checks perpetrated by teachers and wardens also exposed systemic failures when students and parents seek justice. Hence, we are mobilizing in protest and will be organizing a National School Walkout Day to demand immediate reform.

Rape and sexual harassment cases in schools often go unreported to safeguard the reputation of schools and perpetrators, and current public statistics are limited in detail. Therefore, with students speaking out on rape culture, sexual offenses, violations of rights to privacy and safety in their schools, it is important that these voices are amplified and taken into serious consideration to set in motion reform in schools across Malaysia. We cannot tolerate teachers, classmates, authorities, and other members of the public making rape jokes or allowing abusive methods that perpetuate the habit of disbelieving survivors.

Despite these revelations, the response by authorities has been dismissive. The Deputy IGP Datuk Seri Acryl Sani Abdullah in a press conference described a recent rape threat case between students as merely ‘a joke’, while the Education Minister Dr. Mohd Radzi Md Jidin has publicly stated that there has been no evidence of period spot checks. Teachers and even counselors have been caught ridiculing these accounts online and in WhatsApp groups as well as subjecting these survivors to sexual objectification and lewd remarks in public spaces.

We are extremely concerned about the prevalence of these issues and are enraged by the lack of attention and comprehensive action from the relevant government bodies. As such, we have decided to collectively protest, mobilizing the cause behind #MakeSchoolASaferPlace. We demand the people in power to start making institutional changes so that systemic rape culture, whether in the form of normalization of rape jokes, sexist attitudes, rape threats, or victim-blaming, as well as sexual offenses, should
be rooted out by providing formidable reporting and response frameworks, as well as ensuring that academic staff is trained to handle these cases with care.

We, the NSWD Alliance, would like to organize a Nationwide School Walkout Day, where students and teachers alike protest by being absent for 1(one) school day, or 1(one) class period, both online and offline, on Thursday 6th May 2021 or Friday 7th May 2021. These options will allow communities of students, parents, and teachers nationwide to coordinate their own protests safely.

Details of the protest plan and how this movement can be supported are as listed below. We believe that a coordinated walkout would be a powerful and necessary statement showing that we condemn sexual harassment. We also firmly stand by the notion of power in numbers, thus we call on students, teachers, and any member of the public to stand in solidarity with the victims. We sincerely hope through this call to action, the hashtag #MakeSchoolASaferPlace will not die down as a mere trend but will be an ongoing movement to help challenge the norms that have been set in place and to encourage more advocacy for change in the future.

Our walkout demands are:

  1. We emphasize that students have a right to privacy and safety on school grounds.
  2. We demand sexual harassment, abuse, and assault to be recognized and treated as a serious offense in and outside school by the students, teaching staff, school board, and authorities.
  3. We demand that sexual harassment, abuse, and assault be met with serious consequences and immediate action from the school.
  4. We demand that all students who have come forward with their stories be listened to, respected, protected from further abuse, and given any other necessary support.
  5. We stress that all students should receive protection and other forms of support while speaking up and protesting for their rights in and outside of school.

NSWD Alliance is a coalition of

  • Solidariti Pendidikan
  • Monsters Among Us
  • Demokrat Kebangsaan
  • Rape Watchdog

The following organizations support our call for action:

  1. Women’s March MY
  2. GERAK
  3. Sekolah Semua
  4. Undi18
  5. Malaysian Youths for Education Reform (MYER)
  6. Youths.my
  7. KRYSS Network
  8. All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
  9. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
  10. Pelangi Campaign
  11. Sisters In Islam (SIS)

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