‘Girls’ Education Hindered by Lack of Proper Menstrual Hygiene’: Plea Filed in SC Seeking Free Distribution of Sanitary Pads in Schools

Supreme Court Law Insider

Bhuvana Marni

Published on: November 3, 2022 at 21:24 IST

The Union of India and the States have been directed by the Supreme Court in a petition to offer free sanitary pads to girls enrolled in classes 6 to 12 and a separate girls’ restroom in all government-aided and residential schools.

According to the petitioner Jaya Thakur, girls between the ages of 11 to 16 who come from underprivileged backgrounds often need access to hygiene methods.

The appeal written by advocate Varun Thakur shows that the government is making progress but claims that it cannot reach all the girls in the country.

“Menstruation makes the need for safe water, sanitation and hygiene important for women. In such conditions, access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene can be a matter of life and death.”

“According to a report published by Water Aid, illnesses related to a lack of water, basic sanitation and hygiene were responsible for the deaths of almost 800,000 women around the world in a single year making it the fifth biggest killer of women behind heart disease, stroke, lower respiratory infections and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease”, the plea stated emphasizing upon the need for proper sanitation during menstruation.

In addition, the petition claims that because of the stigmas surrounding menstruation, adequate menstrual hygiene management is a serious barrier to girls’ access to school.

The petition further added that “The difficulties faced by these young girls are compounded by the fact that there are several educational facilities and institutions without basic toilet facilities.”

“It cannot be denied that separate and basic toilets are essential for ensuring the constitutional guarantees to these children…..the prevalent myths about menstruation force millions of girls to drop out of school early or be ostracized for the duration of their menstrual cycle every month.”

“They also affect the hiring of female workers, as it is felt that menstruation hampers their production capabilities. Unfortunately, it continues to be treated as a taboo in many societies, shrouded in a culture of silence and shame.”

Thus, the petitioner has requested that the court issue directions ordering the provision of free sanitary pads to girls studying in classes 6 to 12, as well as the installation of separate restrooms for girls in all government-aided and residential schools, along with a cleaner.

The petition further asked the court to issue instructions to the Center and the States to implement a three-stage awareness programme, including

First, spread awareness about menstrual health and unpack the taboos associated with it;

Second, providing adequate sanitation facilities and subsidized or free sanitary products to women and young students, especially in underprivileged areas; and

Third, ensuring an efficient and sanitary method of disposing of menstrual waste.

Case Title: Jaya Thakur vs. Union of India

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