Pretoria – A Silverton Business Park company will undergo sensitisation and courses provided by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) after strip-searching 28 female employees following the discovery of a used sanitary pad in the bathroom.
SAHRC provincial manager Buang Jones visited MJ Laboratories on a fact-finding mission after community activist Virginia Keppler laid a complaint on behalf of the women, who are reportedly still traumatised by the incident that occurred on August 18.
“This is just abhorrent conduct. Companies should make human rights a priority and comply with the Bill of Rights,” Jones said.
He, Keppler and management at the company had a meeting at the company’s premises yesterday and were happy with the outcome.
“We were told the employee who strip-searched the women has since been relieved of her duties. In addition, the company will apologise to the affected employees,” said Jones.
The company would also co-operate with the SAHRC and training conducted jointly with the Department of Labour on sexual harassment, diversity and human rights sensitisation in the workplace, he said.
“Essentially, the search was to check which one of the 28 women was on her menstrual cycle. How demeaning can that get? No one should be put under scrutiny, especially at work.
“I felt the need to open a case on behalf of the women because they were terrified and didn’t want to be victimised,” Keppler said.
Some of the women have since opened a case with the police.
One woman said they were literally marched to the bathroom and forced to take down their pants.“Two of us went into the bathroom at a time,” she said.
“The supervisor told us to take our pants down. We kept our panties on. The supervisor bent to look at our private parts and even touched to feel if we were on our menstrual cycle and if we had a sanitary pad on. This was done without our consent,” she said.
“I cannot begin to explain the anger and violation I experienced when I had to take my pants down and she touched me. That, to me, was a form of sexual abuse,” she said.
She said the supervisor told them it was a discovery mission to determine who was responsible for leaving the used sanitary pad in the bathroom.
She reported the incident to the company HR manager and the supervisor was told to apologise to all the women.
“No other action was taken against the perpetrator. I am a rape survivor and what the supervisor did to me has brought back all the pain and helplessness I had felt during and after I was raped. I am truly traumatised and so are the rest of the women that had to reveal their private parts to her.”
The women will undergo counselling, Jones said. “This is not the end more action is still going to be implemented by the commission.”