“Nobody Was Forced For It,” Dean On Allegedly Making Students Strip In Hostel

Period Paath logoEditor’s Note: This article is a part of #Periodपाठ, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with WSSCC, to highlight the need for better menstrual hygiene management among menstruating persons in India. Join the conversation to take action and demand change! The views expressed in this article are the author’s and are not necessarily the views of the partners.

On Monday, 1oth February, 68 undergraduate students at Sahjanand Girls Institute (SSGI) in Bhuj, Gujarat, were stripped to check if they were menstruating after a used sanitary pad was found in the garden outside the hostel.

On 10th February, 68 undergraduate students at Sahjanand Girls Institute (SSGI) in Bhuj, Gujarat, were stripped to check if they were menstruating after a used sanitary pad was found in the garden outside the hostel. Representational image.

On 14 February, Friday, The Gujarat State Women Commission (GSWC) ordered the state police to investigate the incident. And the National Commission for Women said an inquiry team would be set up to investigate the matter.

The Dean of the institute, Darshana Dholakia, had earlier said that the matter was related to the hostel and that they had sought the “permission” of the girls.

“Matter is related to the hostel and has nothing to do with university or college. Everything happened with girls’ permission. Nobody was forced for it. Nobody touched them,” said Dholakia.

One of the students who was asked to strip commented that it was “sheer mental torture and had no words to describe it.”

Some parents of the students have also planned to lodge an FIR against the institute and its principal, Rita Rangia. “I do believe in rules, but they have no right to torture my daughter in this manner,” said the father of one of the girls.

Even after two girls confessed to it, the principal and the hostel wardens had insisted on stripping the girls. According to reports, the hostel has even made it compulsory for the girls to shift to the basement and use separate utensils while they are menstruating.

This Is Not The First Time Something Like This Has Happened!

As much as the incident is shameful, it is not the first time girls were stripped to check whether they were menstruating.                              

    1. Akal University in Punjab, 2018 – Akal University in Punjab, in May last year, had allegedly stripped a dozen girls after a used sanitary napkin was found in the hostel washroom. The students filed a complaint with Gurmail Singh, Vice-Chancellor, and also held a protest on the college campus to demand legal actions against the hostel wardens. As the protest gained momentum, the university authorities terminated the services of those accused.
    2. Government school, Punjab, 2018 – Two girls were allegedly stripped by two school teachers in the Fazilka district of Punjab when a used sanitary pad in the school’s toilet. The two teachers were later transferred to a different location.
    3. A residential school, Muzaffarnagar, 2017 – At least 70 girls in Muzaffarnagar were allegedly stripped by the principal who wanted to check whether the girls were menstruating after bloodstains were seen in the bathroom.
    4. Karnataka, 2015 – The stripping of girls has not been limited to check for menstrual blood. Twelve girls were stripped by a school headmistress to search for a 100 rupee note that was missing. According to the India Today report, the headmistress was later suspended after the parents protested outside the school.

These incidents only go to show how menstruating girls and women are viewed in our patriarchal society, as ‘dirty and impure’. If finding a used sanitary pad upsets college authorities so much, they can establish facilities for better disposal of the pads.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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