Gujarat HC’s progressive, pro-female stance on Women’s Day

On International Women’s day, the Gujarat High Court has directed the state government to prohibit the social exclusion of women at public places while menstruating, and spread awareness through various mediums, along with sensitisation of health workers.

The Court on Monday also directed the government to allocate necessary funds for the implementation of their directions. It has also sought responses from the state as well as the Central Government regarding the directions.

The High Court has scheduled the next hearing on March 30.

Passing an intermediate order pertaining to a PIL filed in the Gujarat High Court by Nirjhari Mukul Sinha, the wife of noted HC lawyer Mukul Sinha, the bench of Justice, JB Pardiwala and Justice Ilesh J Vora, issued directions to the Gujarat government and Central Government regarding the social exclusion practised by many institutions and sections of the society regarding menstruation.

The bench on Monday directed the state government to prohibit social exclusion of women on the basis of their menstrual status at all places, be it private or public, religious or educational.

The bench also directed the government to spread awareness among its citizens regarding social exclusion through various mediums like posters in public spaces, including the subject in school curriculum, using audio visual mediums like radio, entertainment and news channels, short films, among others.

The bench also felt the need to spread awareness among the school teachers regarding menstrual cycles.

The court also felt that empowerment of women through education and increasing the role in decision-making could also add in this regard.

“Sensitization of health workers, accredited social activists and Anganwadi workers regarding menstrual biology must also be done so that they could further disseminate this knowledge in the community and mobilise social support against busting menstruation related myths,” the Gujarat High Court observed.

The court directed the government to hold campaigns, drives, involve NGOs and other private organisations, to spread such awareness. The court also directed the state government to allocate necessary funds for the implementation of its directives.

This public interest litigation is the outcome of a very unfortunate incident that was reported by the media on February 14, 2020, the High Court said in its order on Monday.

“We are talking about the incident that occurred with 68 girls in a hostel run by the respondent No. 5, {Shree Sahajanand Girls Institute (SSGI), Bhuj} herein being forced to undergo a strip test. It was reported that 68 undergraduate girls were paraded through the college into the restroom and forced to individually remove their undergarments to prove that they were not menstruating.”

The Bhuj police had booked the SSGI Principal Rita Raninga, hostel coordinator Anita Chauhan, hostel supervisor Rameelaben and peon Naynaben on charges of sexual harassment, extortion and criminal intimidation among other charges in the said case.

According to the students of the SSGI, the administration kept the girls in physical isolation during their monthly menstrual cycles period, but the girls were asked to strip for the first time in February 2020.

The incident transpired after a hostel staff found a blood-soaked sanitary napkin on the hostel premises. The authorities wanted to identify the “culprit” who had “violated the menstrual cycle norms of the college”. The warden informed the principal of the college and asked her to take action.