In the Shree Sahjanand Girls Institute hostel, Kutch University, Bhuj, a soiled sanitary napkin found in the hostel garden, triggered a chain reaction that no one could have foreseen.
On discovery of the sanitary napkin, the hostel warden informed the Principal Rita Raniga, who then summoned all the girls to the common room. Rita Raniga then delivered a lecture on the Swaminarayan Sect rules about menstruation that have been devised for the ‘greater good’.
According to these rules, girls who are on their period cannot stay in the hostel and must instead live in the basement. They cannot have physical contact with anyone.
They cannot enter the kitchen. They cannot enter any temples. They have to maintain separate belongings including crockery and clean them after their period is done. They have to sit on the backbenches during lessons.
The Principal then asked which girls were responsible for the guilty sanitary napkin and two of them confessed. Not satisfied with this, however, the Principal along with a few female teachers, took the girls to the bathroom, one by one, and asked them to strip in front of them, to prove whether they were menstruating or not.
68 girls were put through this torture.
The girls tried to approach the college trustee, Pravid Pindoria, who asked them to forget about the incident. When questioned about it by the media, Pindoria claimed that these were strict rules that were followed by the Sect.
He did admit that the matter may have been taken too far and that legitimate action would be taken.
An FIR has been filed at Bhuj ‘A’ Division police station against the Principal, peon, rector and lawyer of the college under IPC Sections 384 extortion, 355 assault, 294 obscenity, 506(2) criminal intimidation and 505(3) public mischief.
“This is absolutely medieval. We are talking about reaching the Moon and looking for water on Mars and yet we think our girls who are going through a completely natural biological process are ‘impure'”
-Brinda Adige, Women’s Rights Activist
Swamy Chakrapani, President of the Hindu Mahasabha, defended the archaic and sexist rules of the Swaminarayan Sect, stating that while the actions of the college were reprehensible, the rules were proposed to provide a convenient facility to the girls, out of respect for their delicate constitution.
He asked the press not to view the rules as punishment, but kindness during times of trouble.
The National Commission for Women has written to the Shree Sahjanand Girls Institute College Trustee and the Principal demanding an explanation for the shameful exercise that took place at their institute.
Taking suo moto cognisance of the matter, the NCW has opened an inquiry and is putting together a team which will go to the college and speak to the girls on Sunday.
Period shaming, discrimination and poverty have a huge impact on young girls’ mental and physical health. Attendance rates in schools can fall and many girls end up dropping out entirely.
Women can also lose out on economic opportunities, which would deprive them of an income and their independence.
According to the infographic on the official UN Women website, what is needed to end the stigma around period is:
“We knew we shouldn’t be ashamed. We weren’t ashamed. We were grown-ass women—which is obviously why we paraded to the restrooms with tampons secretly stuffed into our cardigan sleeves as though we were spies delivering encrypted information.
….We pretended that all of this was a myth. That we had neither fallopian tubes, nor menstrual cycles, nor breasts, nor moods, nor children. And then we took it as a compliment when one of the men in the office told us we had balls. So, tell us again how this wasn’t a man’s world.”
-Chandler Baker, The Whisper Network