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What is a Chaperone?

A chaperone is usually a married or older woman, who for the sake of propriety or caution, accompanies one or more young unmarried women in public or in mixed company. The word chaperone derives from the French word “chaperon” (from the Late Latin “cappa,” meaning cape) which matrons usually wore outside.

The supervision of vulnerable women, especially young marriageable age women in public where they might meet men, has been common in many cultures. Older generations seemed more aware of the personal and social benefits of helping young people control their natural biological urges by supervising them regularly than current cultures are. Having adult supervision was particularly strict in southern Europe in Spain where an adult companion for young females was called a “dueña.”

In Western societies today, chaperones are usually parents and teachers who supervise groups of young people at school dances, sporting events, and field trips. In present-day situations where young people must be away from their families for an extended period of time, such as child athletes or child actors in movies, there is a legal obligation to have a staff member as chaperone responsible for the general safety and well-being of the child while away from their parents. These chaperones should be qualified in first aid and child protection.

Also, the American Medical Association and the General Medical Council of the United Kingdom have adopted protocol of having chaperones available on a consistent basis to offer any patient the option of having an impartial observer present when a physician does an “intimate examination.”

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