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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Gujarat HC proposes end of menstruation taboo, discrimination against women

The Gujarat High Court has proposed to prohibit social exclusion of women on the basis of their menstrual status at all places, including private, public, religious and educational.

In an attempt to end the taboo around menstruation, the Gujarat High Court has proposed certain rules for the state government. It has proposed to prohibit social exclusion of women on the basis of their menstrual status at all places, including private, public, religious and educational.

A PIL in connection with an unfortunate incident was being heard by a bench of Justices JB Pardiwala and Ilesh J Vora, wherein over 60 inmates of a hostel of Shree Sahjanand Girls Institute in Bhuj were reportedly forced to strip to “prove” they were not menstruating. All the girls were paraded through the college to the restroom and forced to remove their undergarments.

As a result of the taboo around menstruation, the girls were forced to do this after a complaint by the hostel rector to the principal, saying that some of the girls were violating religious norms for menstruating females.

Seeking direction for a law to deal with this exclusionary practice, Writ applicant Nirjhari Mukul Sinha moved court.

“Menstruation has been stigmatised in our society. This has built up due to the traditional beliefs in the impurity of menstruating women and our unwillingness to discuss it normally,” the court observed.

The New Indian Express reported that the court noted that many are subjected to restrictions simply just because they are menstruating.

“Not entering the puja room is the major restriction among urban girls, whereas not entering the kitchen is the main restriction among rural girls during menstruation. Menstruating girls and women are also restricted from offering prayers and touching holy books,” the court said.

Talking about cultural beliefs of impurity associated with menstruation, such as claims like menstruating women are unclean and the food they prepare or handle can get contaminated, the court said: “Such taboos impact the girls’ and women’s emotional state, mentality and lifestyle and most importantly, health.”

Observing that girls often grow up without much knowledge on menstruation and the issues surrounding it because their mother do not discuss the same with them, the court remarked: “The challenge of addressing taboos and beliefs are further compounded by the girls’ low knowledge levels and understanding of puberty, menstruation and reproductive health.”

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