Cape Town – A Cape Town woman has been left traumatised and humiliated after being strip-searched by a police officer who forced her to remove her sanitary pad during a search.
Aspiring graphic designer Janine Mahabeer, 21, from Athlone, who works at Empire Cafe in Muizenberg, told the Cape Argus she and her boyfriend, Bruce Meyer, had been driving to Thornton when they were pulled over on Koodoo Street around 4pm last Thursday by three members of the Pinelands Flying Squad.
As soon as Meyer stopped the Toyota Conquest two female and one male officer approached the vehicle and immediately began a search for drugs.
“We do not know why they pulled us over because we had nothing in the car besides my laptop and also it was the middle of the day and I was coming from home.”
She said the male officer asked her boyfriend for his licence and then he told him to get out of the car.
“While my boyfriend was outside the car being searched, the two lady officers told me to get into the back of the car and lie down. The one lady started searching my bag and the other got in the car with me and started feeling by my breasts.
“When I asked her to stop feeling by my breasts the lady told me to keep quiet and that I must let her do her job. All I was thinking to myself was that I shouldn’t speak too much because they are the police and they can arrest me.”
Matters took a turn for worse when the officer, who was identified only as Williams, took off Mahabeer’s pants.
“She put her hands down by my vagina and starting to feel around there. It was my time of the month so I had a pad on and when the officer felt that she told me to take it off to see if I wasn’t hiding anything there. I took it off and after she searched there she then told me to lift myself so that she could check my bum as well. I felt really dirty during the search and the officer was not wearing any gloves.”
After the search uncovered no suspicious items Mahabeer said that the police told the couple to continue their journey and left.
“They acted like nothing had happened and told us that we can go. While we were driving I told my boyfriend what happened and he was very upset. He knew I was in the back of the car, but he could not see what was going on. Also there were people all around the car watching what was going on.”
Out of fear Mahabeer did not report the incident. However after consulting with friends and family the Cape Town College student is looking to lay a charge.
One of the people who encouraged her to lay the charge is Dave Jones, the owner of Empire Cafe in Muizenberg where she has been waitressing for the past eight months.
“Ï found out what happened on Friday and I was immediately disgusted by what I heard. I thought to myself that there was no way that it could be legal and I told her that she should lay a charge. I understand that she may have some fears about it, but there is no way that sort of action can go unpunished,” said Jones.
Because a case was not laid by Mahabeer police spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel André Traut, could not comment on the matter. However, he did add that should a charge be laid the matter would not be handled by the police.
“If it is a case of police brutality we will not handle the matter as it will be handled immediately by Ipid (Independent Police Investigative Directorate),” said Traut.
By Junior Bester