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“Menstruation Has Been Stigmatised In Our Society”: Gujarat HC. Court Proposes Law To Allow Women Access To All Places During Periods

March 11, 2021 | by Mitali Shah

I’ve always felt eternally grateful that my parents don’t subscribe to society’s blind beliefs and stigmas surrounding menstruation. They’ve never asked me to sit in one corner of my house or to not enter the kitchen or treated me like an untouchable. In fact, my parents have always taught me to not view menstruation as a sign of weakness or impurity. It’s a biological phenomenon, one that we have no control over. But it’s not the same perspective as our society, is it? For them, women are impure while they are menstruating and talking about it openly will make the sky come crashing down. But here’s the thing though, I take great joy in reporting that the Gujarat HC has passed a landmark ruling. They’ve proposed a ban on the exclusion of menstruating women from private, public and religious places. This is a victory!

The Gujarat HC has proposed a set of guidelines to ban the social exclusion of menstruating women from all private, public, religious and educational places. According to a report in Live Law, the HC has sought a response from the state and central government on the matter by the end of March and asked them to sensitise people against perpetuating biases against women. It’s time our government takes cognizance of the matter and makes this a pan-India law. With this Gujarat HC ruling, we’ve won a tiny battle. Let’s hope we win the war as well.

A bench of Justices JB Pardiwala and Ilesh J Vora said, “Menstruation has been stigmatised in our society. This stigma has built up due to the traditional beliefs in impurity of menstruating women and our unwillingness to discuss it normally.” Further adding, “We are conscious of the fact that we are dealing with a very delicate issue and therefore, it is necessary for this court to hear all the respondents and other stakeholders. The aforesaid should not be construed as if this court has made up its mind one way or the other. A healthy and meaningful debate or deliberation is necessary in the present litigation.”

Also Read: This Village In Maharashtra Has Elected An All-Woman Panchayat. It’s Now Cleaner, Inclusive And Menstruation Is No Longer Taboo

These observations were made while the court was hearing a plea filed by activist Nirjhari Mukul Sinha in connection with an incident that happened at the the Shree Sahjanand Girls Institute in Bhuj town in February 2020. You see, 68 girls were paraded around, taken into the toilet and forced to strip down to prove they weren’t menstruating. This alleged harassment took place after the warden suspected that some of these girls might be “violating religious norms”.

The plea filed by Nirjhari Mukul Sinha sought the creation of a law that dealt with the stigma that surrounds menstruation. It argued that discriminating against women just because they bleed once a month is violating their fundamental rights. The court agreed with the petitioner and said, “Not entering the ‘puja’ room is the major restriction among the urban girls whereas, not entering the kitchen is the main restriction among the rural girls during menstruation. Menstruating girls and women are also restricted from offering prayers and touching holy books.”

The Gujarat court also observed that 88% of girls suffer from period poverty. They are forced to use ashes, manure, newspapers, dried leaves. Sanitary napkins are a luxury for them all because of the taboo attached to menstruation. The court said, “Poor protection and inadequate washing facilities may increase susceptibility to infection, with the odour of menstrual blood putting girls at risk of being stigmatized.” It also added that 23% of girls are forced to drop out of school when they begin menstruating.

It proposed a set of guidelines for the Gujarat government. Those directions included the ban on the exclusion of menstruating women from public, private and religious places. The court also observed that awareness needs to be spread amongst people to bust the myths and stigmas around menstruation.

While we do think this is a step forward, unfortunately, myths and taboos around periods are propagated by social structures. Which means we need to change mindsets and now just introduce laws. However, we do applaud this move.

We are glad that the Gujarat HC took the incident at the Shree Sahjanand Girls so seriously and proposed mandates to bust the stigmas surrounding menstruation. It’s a landmark ruling. Let’s hope the Gujarat government sees it that way as well. Girls have suffered for long enough!


Mitali Shah

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