Stats from Redfern Legal Center – a not-for-profit community legal group – have shown that over the last four years, police in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, exercised the controversial act of performing strip searches on more than 120 girls between the ages of 12 and 17. In total, from 2016 until now, nearly 4,000 women of various ages were subjected to strip searches, usually under suspicion of drug possession.
According to the law, if there are credible reasons to believe that someone might be carrying drugs on their person, police have the right to strip search children aged 10 to 18 with the presence of a parent, guardian, or any other person.
Should the law be changed?
The Minister of the NSW police, David Elliott, claims that there is nothing wrong with the law and if his own kids were suspected of using drugs, he’d expect them to be strip searched too. According to Elliott, a third of individuals who were subjected to searches were in fact guilty of breaking the law.
“If your kid was the one buying the drugs of that 34 percent, I think you’d be pretty happy that they got found out,” said Elliott. “I’ve got young children, and if the police felt that they were at risk of doing something wrong, I’d want them strip searched.”
Redfern Legal Center’s head of police accountability, Samantha Lee, says that the current law is inappropriate and it should be altered to restrict the act of strip searching minors unless the police have a court order.
“Girls as young as twelve and thirteen, some just finishing primary school, are being taken by police to a strange place and ordered by someone with a huge amount of power to take off their clothes,” stated Lee.
The police failed to produce stats regarding the amount of women who were requested to squat during the search, or the amount of girls told to lift up their breasts in the process of the inspection.
In 2018, a girl of 16 years old was illegally searched by NSW police at a festival where she was told to remove all clothing and squat in front of a female officer.
“I could not believe that this was happening to me. I could not stop crying. I was completely humiliated,” the girl said.