Women detained by police forced to remove bras after demo

Posted on : 2008-08-20 14:02 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Police say they were just following the rules and refuse to apologize, but civic groups say the women’s rights were violated

Following a similar incident at Mapo Police Station, it has been revealed that police at Gangnam Police Station also demanded that female detainees arrested at the time of the candlelight demonstrations remove their bras. Police commanders, responding to criticism that they violated human rights, refuse to officially apologize, saying they followed regulations.

Based on what police and detainees said August 19, police placed five female protesters, including a 27-year-old office worker by the name of Goh, in a holding cell after they were apprehended in a candlelight demonstration August 15. There, they were asked to remove their bras. They at first refused, but police continued to demand they do so, saying the detainees could use the bras to kill themselves. In the end, they took off their bras, and spent about 40 hours in detention until they were released Sunday evening.

Goh said she was shocked when first asked to remove her bra. She refused due to shame, but because police -- citing regulations -- kept high-handedly demanding she remove the article of clothing, she had no choice but to comply, she said. She added that since the inside of the holding cell was clearly visible from the outside, she had to be careful every time she moved, and she felt quite ashamed as she was questioned by male officers. About this, Lee Ji-chun, the head investigator at Gangnam Police Station, said it was natural for police to demand that detainees remove any harmful objects, and that it was a measure taken to safeguard their human rights and lives.

Prior to this, police said they demand that detainees remove their bras if they are to be kept for over 48 hours or if they are being detained alone, but the women who were detained at Gangnam Police Station were all freed in less than 48 hours and were kept with seven other women. A high-ranking Seoul Metropolitan Police official said detainment and escort regulations say police can confiscate items that could be used to commit suicide, such as belts, ties, and metal objects, and in their own police manual, bras are included as an object that could be used to kill or harm oneself. Police said on August 18 that they had faithfully followed regulations, but they did not fully take into consideration the position of the women. They said they would review and strengthen pertinent regulations to prevent the incident from reoccurring.

Human rights and women’s groups, including Lawyers for Democratic Society and Sarangbang Group for Human Rights, said that not only was the incident a clear violation of human rights, but it also seemed to have been done in retaliation for the candlelight demonstrations. They said they are thinking of gathering together similar incidents to jointly launch a legal response. Lawyer Song Sang-gyo said police mustn’t apply detainment regulations and guidebooks mechanically; they must look at the specific situation and judge it independently. Song said that for police to cry about potential suicide for women who have been detained together after a minor offense is itself an overreaction. On the police homepage and among Internet users there is a flood of protest posts, including a movement to send bras to the police.

Please direct questions or comments to [englishhani@hani.co.kr]

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