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Women can’t be excluded at private and public places based on their ‘menstrual cycle’, proposes Gujarat High Court. May we hope for a change in mindsets?
According to a report published on March 9, 2021, Gujarat HC has proposed to “Prohibit Social exclusion of Women which discriminates Women based on their Menstrual Status at all Private and Public places like religious and educational.”
This proposal has come in response to a complaint filed by Writ Applicant Nirjhari Mukul Sinha, in a shameful incident which happened in an education institute in Bhuj.
On February 11, 2020, over 60 girl students were humiliated when they were asked to strip to check if they were menstruating on the campus. This happened after the rector of the college suspected that some of them had moved into the kitchen and/or temple area of their hostel, which is prohibited during periods according to the rules of the Swaminarayan Mandir that owns this institution.
This horrific incident created anger among many women, and in response to this Gujarat Mahila Manch demanded the immediate removal of the warden of the Bhuj hostel and strict police action against those responsible for this incident. Gujarat Mahila Manch condemend this act by mentioning that, “The incident clearly violates the basic rights of the young women and as per the law it outrages the modesty of the young women, causing them mental trauma and amounts to sexual harassment”.
The recent proposal by the High Court noted that even today, several girls and women have to face the restrictions in their daily lives simply because they are menstruating.
“Not entering the puja room is the major restriction among the urban girls whereas, not entering the kitchen is the main restriction among the rural girls during menstruation. Menstruating girls and women are also restricted from offering prayers and touching holy books”, observed the Court.
Such banning women from entering a religious place based on their ‘pure & impure status’ is not new.
In 1991, the Kerala High Court restricted entry of women between the age group of 10 years and 50 years in the Sabarimala Temple, as they fall into the category of menstruating age.
Many years later, on September 28, 2018, the Supreme Court lifted this ban, mentioning that such discrimination against women even under ‘religious grounds’ is unconstitutional. Inspite of that, there were many who strongly believed that challenging these traditions had polluted the temple, and temple trust conducted an elaborate purification ceremony as the temple had been ‘defiled’.
Such taboos about menstruation not only impact on girls’ and women’s emotional and mental health, but their lifestyle is compromised too, even causing roadblocks to their education. As women, we are still fighting this battle of being considered ‘impure or pure’ by society. But my concern is why does the same society forget that reproduction is nature’s way of propagating the human race? And why can’t we really understand that such discrimination based on ‘menstrution’ is utterly irrational, based on socio-cultural myths and beliefs over the years.
It’s time we break these social and cultural barriers and stereotypes which are infesting the society with sick mindset and robbing us of our basic rights to pray, eat, sleep wherever we want.
Image source: a still from the film Period. End of Sentence
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