KwaZulu-Natal - Wearing no underwear is not against the law, police told a Mandeni headmaster after he called them in to deal with three female pupils caught without panties on.
It was just one of many humiliations faced by three friends from Mbuyiselo High School in Mandeni who claim the often sweaty 17km walk to school caused a rash on their nether regions. Their solution was to not wear panties.
But last week when the principal heard of this, he asked a female teacher to check under their skirts and then called the police. The incident prompted a visit to the school by education department officials this week.
The Grade 10 girls said pupils who heard about this started teasing them, saying they were asking to be raped, then told the headmaster, who called them into his office.
“My two friends were already in the office when I got there. The principal asked a female teacher to check if we were wearing underwear.
“The teacher then led us to a side room and lifted our skirts individually,” said the 16-year-old.
“She questioned why we weren’t wearing underwear. We told her it was for health reasons, explaining we walk a long distance to school and the panties cause a rash. She said we were lying, rude and disrespectful.”
When the girls returned to the principal’s office, the police were waiting for them.
“He (the principal) told the police to arrest us because we were not wearing underwear and were asking to be raped. But the police said they could not because it was not an offence,” the girl added.
“The police suggested that the principal write letters to our parents, informing them about what happened.”
One of the teenagers said her mother was angry about how the principal handled the matter.
“She was mad because they had no right to treat us like that. And why did they call the police and not our parents? They haven’t checked (if we are wearing underwear) since that day, but they have threatened to check us every morning at the gate.”
Despite the incident, she still does not wear underwear.
“I just don’t like panties; they hurt and make me feel uncomfortable,” she said.
To avoid further embarrassment, the second victim packs a pair of panties in her school bag and puts them on when she gets to school, then removes them before she goes home.
She said they had become the talking point among pupils. “Other pupils tease us, saying we are asking to be raped. They call us names and laugh at us.”
Police spokesman Colonel Jay Naicker said he was unable to comment on the incident as a case was not opened.
Joyce Webster, the nursing manager at Northdale Hospital, said wearing certain underwear could cause a rash.
“You could develop eczema if you are allergic to synthetic underwear.
“Some people just cannot wear synthetic underwear. I would advise them to wear pure cotton. If the rash persists, they should see a doctor.”
Education department spokesman Muzi Mahlambi was reluctant to discuss the matter.
“As you have spoken to the girls, we have nothing further to say on the matter.”
The principal, VA Khumalo, declined to comment when contacted, referring all queries to the Department of Education.