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68 Students Were Allegedly Strip Checked Due To Shocking ‘Menstruation Rules’

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This post is a part of Periodपाठ, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with WSSCC to highlight the need for better menstrual hygiene management in India. Click here to find out more.

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’.

The Principal asked which girls were responsible for the guilty sanitary napkin and two of them confessed.

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 Facts You Cannot Ignore!

Period shaming, discrimination and poverty have a huge impact on young girls’ mental and physical health.
  • Menstruation is the bleeding that occurs as part of a woman’s monthly cycle as a result of the shedding of her uterine wall. On average, it lasts 3-5 days. It is estimated that a woman spends 6 years in her lifetime menstruating.
  • 12% of all girls are victim to period poverty; they are denied access to menstrual hygiene products such as tampons, sanitary napkins, menstrual cups and inner-wear.
  • Being excluded from physical spaces, forced into solitary confinement, forbidden or required to bathe and banned from cooking or touching food are common practices in cultures all over the world.
  •  During menstruation, girls may have to resort to using newspapers, toilet paper, plastic bags, socks, clothes, rags and even bark of trees in lieu of hygiene products.
  •  1.25 billion girls do not have access to safe and private toilets while 526 million have no access to toilets at all.

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:

  • Affordable and tax-free sustainable sanitary products
  • Access to hygiene products and sanitation facilities
  • Better workplace policies inclusive of menstruating women
  • Availability o information, awareness and education

“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

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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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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