I remember running on my way back home from school. Thank god, it is still winter and I have my sweater handy, I remember saying to myself. The said navy blue sweater was wrapped around my waist, hiding a crimson spot the size of a one rupee coin on my white school uniform, that was mandatory on Saturdays. That small coin-sized stain from my period blood had the power to make me panic, constantly check my clothes, and always “be on the guard”. Every girl in our society has to live with guilt and shame for a biological function that comes naturally to her body; menstruation. It keeps us out of kitchens and places of worship, it forbids us from touching pickles. In Bhuj, periods were the reason why 68 students had to endure the humiliating ordeal of being strip-searched.
WHAT HAPPENED, WHY?
- 68 girls in Bhuj were strip-searched because their principal suspected that some of them were lying about not being on periods.
- Even in this day and age society holds the agency to humiliate girls and women suing menstruation as a tool?
- Where do girls feel safe, if not schools, colleges, playgrounds and homes?
- Do we have any idea what this horrendous ordeal may have done to the psych of those students?
As per news reports, 68 undergraduate students at Sahjanand Girls Institute in Bhuj were plucked out of their lecture by their college principal, paraded to the wahsrooms and forced to remove their undwerwear, to prove that they were not on periods. The reason why they were treated so inhumanly? A used pad has been found by the hostel warden of the college in the garden. One needs to keep in mind that female students in this college are not allowed to stay inside rooms, they have to live in the basement area if they are on periods. They have to sit on the last bench in the classroom and are not even allowed to touch other students.
Every girl in our society has to live with guilt and shame for a biological function that comes naturally to her body; menstruation.
How are we not ashamed of being a part of a society where people have the audacity to demand that young women show them their underwear to confirm whether or not they are on periods? If we fail to create safe spaces in the education system in India, how will parents feel motivated to send their daughters away from home, in order to pursue higher education? Patriarchy has time and again used menstruation as a tool, to brand women impure, a secondary gender which doesn’t even deserve the basic dignity that each living being deserves.
For centuries women have been cast out of their homes, forced to live in shanties, and survive on meager provisions, forced out by those they dedicate their existence to, all because periods are considered to be unclean. With the incident in Bhuj coming to light, one feels the need for an immediate call for action.
We cannot let girls in this country face humiliation, not from their families, not from their immediate society, and especially not from educators and institutes that are responsible to enlighten the future generations and help young girls gain confidence. Where do girls feel safe, if not schools, colleges, playgrounds and homes? Do we have any idea what this horrendous ordeal may have done to the psych of those 68 students in Bhuj? To be cornered by your very teachers into removing your underpants and showing it to them? That vulnerability will forever stay with these young women.
It is this vulnerability which devours their confidence and fills them with self doubt. Be it 13 or 32 or 40, any woman on her periods feels different about herself when she is on periods, and no this isn't about bleeding and aching for those five days, but facing discrimination and knowing that there are many around them who consider them to be "polluted".
We owe an apology to these 68 girls as a society, for ignoring the humiliation that comes every woman's way because of her periods. No one should have to be ashamed for their biology. It is not the blood which is impure afterall, it is the mindset that breeds discrimination.
Ending period discrimination is one of many ways society can help women achieve an equal status. But the question is, does it want to treat us as equals?
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.