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Supreme Court Expresses Concern On Undignified Treatment Of Women Patients At Mental Health Facilities

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When it comes to mental health in India, there is still a lot of stigma attached to it. There is no doubt that more and more celebrities and influential people are diverting attention to the importance of mental health. But still, it isn’t enough. There is a lot that needs to be changed, starting with the way mental health patients, especially women, are treated at the mental health facilities that exist in India. And this might soon happen, because the Supreme Court of India has expressed its concerns regarding the issues faced by women patients at mental health facilities, particularly the undignified treatment meted out to them.

Recently, the Supreme Court was listening to a plea that sought rehabilitation and vaccination for patients in mental health facilities. In the course of the hearing, the SC observed that there were a number of issues that women patients were facing at mental health facilities. The honourable court has now asked the central government and state governments to address these issues and keep monitoring the progress on a monthly basis.

The plea that drew the Supreme Court’s attention to the issues faced by women at mental health facilities was filed by advocate Gaurav Bansal. In his plea, Bansal stated there are around 10,000 people who are completely fit to be discharged from the mental health facilities but are still forced to live there due to the social stigma around mental health. The plea’s major focus was that all the patients at these mental health facilities should be tested for Covid-19 and also be vaccinated at the earliest, since they are the most vulnerable to it.

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When addressing the Supreme Court, advocate Gaurav Bansal revealed to the public that in many of the mental health facilities women’s heads are forcefully shaved and these women face difficulty in getting access to sanitary pads. These were among the many issues that women patients face at the mental health facilities in India. As per NDTV, to further strengthen his argument, Advocate Bansal even cited a NIMHANS research study (2016) and NCW research (2020) that highlighted the undignified treatment women were receiving at mental health facilities.

Listening to the plea and appeal of advocate Gaurav Bansal, the Supreme Court with a three-judge bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Vikram Nath, and Hima Kohli observed that these were serious issues and concerns faced by women patients and needed a proper solution to resolve them. 

Also Read: Supreme Court Lays Out Directions For Lower Courts, Says Don’t Stereotype Women

Speaking about the Supreme Court order regarding women patients, Gaurav Bansal told NDTV, “This is a significant order by the Supreme Court. So far, things have been moving at a snail’s pace. But this decision will take things in the right direction. It will make state governments more accountable and will bring clarity on what goes inside mental health homes… Otherwise, they function in a very opaque manner.”

The Supreme Court has made a sound decision. Now all there is left to do is two things. First, to wait for the government to take the necessary actions. And second, to spread awareness about mental health and illnesses and ensure that the stigma around it is reduced. And the second one is going to be a long journey, but I’m glad that we’ve at least already started on it. 

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