In a horrifying incident in the state of Gujarat, female hostellers were forced to remove their undergarments to prove to the college management that they were not menstruating.
Nearly 68 undergraduate students of Bhuj’s Shri Sahjanand Girls’ Institute (SSGI) – a college run by followers of a Hindu sect, namely, Swaminarayan Mandir – were allegedly paraded through the college into the restroom on Thursday, after a hostel warden complained to the principal that some of the inmates had been violating the religious norms of the college, reported Ahmedabad Mirror.
Religious norms here, that are set by the sect, include barring of menstruating women from entering the temple and kitchen, and touching or mingling with other students, among others.
When it was feared that the norms were not followed, principal Rita Raninga abused and insulted the students, according to the report.
The students were taken to the washroom where they were allegedly asked to individually remove undergarments by the female teachers of an education institute that, otherwise, aims to empower girls “through modern, scientific and value based education.”
Set up in 2012, the college is affiliated to a Gujarat state university, namely, Krantiguru Shyamji Krishna Verma Kachchh University (KSKVKU).
“The principal, hostel rector and the trustees harass us regularly over the issue of menstruation. We are punished for having periods. This happens even if we follow their religious rules. They made us remove our undergarments because they thought some of us were lying about not having periods, and mingling with the others against rules. But the humiliation meted out to us on Thursday was the last straw. When we protested against this, trustee Pravin Pindoria told us that we could take legal action if we wanted but we would have to first leave the hostel. He also forced the students to sign a letter saying nothing happened in college. But enough is enough,” the Ahmedabad Mirror quoted a girl as saying.
As per the newspaper’s report, no police complaint has been registered yet but vice-chancellor of KSKVKU has formed a committee to investigate the matter.
NewsClick attempted to get in touch with the vice chancellor of the university, but couldn’t get through.
The incident has drawn flak over social media from leaders of various political hues and several women’s organisation. In a tweet, Jignesh Mevani, a sitting MLA from Vadgam constituency in Gujarat, has called it “absolutely disgusting, horrifying.”
Such cases of menstruation taboos – even though they are being busted globally – are not new to the Indian society, however, it is a matter of concern such so-called stigmas are propagated by educational institutes.
However, this is not the first such incident where taboos surrounding menstruation have led to students being mistreated by college or university administration. Earlier in another similar incident in 2018, as many as 40 girl students of Madhya Pradesh’s Dr Hari Singh Gour University were allegedly stripped and searched by the hostel warden to check if they are menstruating.
NewsClick spoke to Nalini Jadega, Gujarat state committee member of All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), who termed this as a “heinous” act. “Under the name of following religious practices, a woman is often being met with such atrocious treatment,” she said.
She demanded the state government to take cognisance of the issue and investigate into the matter. Strict action must be taken against those who are responsible, she added.