In Gujarat’s Bhuj, on Thursday, a college principal forced 68 female students and hostel residents to take off their undergarments in the washroom to prove they weren’t on their period. The Shree Sahajanand Girls Institute’s principal Dr Rita M. Raninga reportedly paraded 68 girls from their classrooms to college washrooms amidst their lectures to check whether they were menstruating or not after the hostel warden alleged that some girls were entering the hostel kitchen and mingling with other hostelers while menstruating.

In the times when menstruation taboos are being busted with global campaigns, we’re still grappling with educational institutes propagating such orthodox stigmas. One of the students, Durga* told Ahmedabad Mirror, “The hostel administration levelled this allegation and insulted us on Wednesday. On Thursday, when we were attending lectures, rector Anjaliben called the principal and complained about this. We were forced to leave our classrooms and queue up outside in the passage. The principal abused and insulted us, asking which of us were having our periods. Two of us who were menstruating stepped aside.

Also read: Period Is Not A Disease Or A Handicap: Shilpi Sahu, Marathoner

Despite this, we were all taken to the washroom. There, female teachers asked us to individually remove our undergarments so they could check if we were menstruating.”

The college, which was founded in 2012, is run by followers of Swaminarayan Mandir in Bhuj (Nar Narayan Dev Gadi). On its website, it claims to promote “Self development and empowerment of girls through modern, scientific and value based education” while at the same time it allegedly propagates tabooed menstruation dogmas like not letting girls enter the kitchen and temple while they are menstruating. They apparently prohibit menstruating girls from touching other girls, taking us back to the olden times that we took so long to partially come out of. However, it is practices like the ones happening in this college that remind us that menstruation taboo is real and it still exists in our society.

Students studying in this institute come from all the villages around Bhuj who want to take up higher studies after school and don’t have the opportunity available in their own villages. A 19-year-old undergraduate student said, “We come from far-flung villages. The college campus houses a school that runs classes from Class 1 to 12. They provide hostel facilities for school students. The college does not have its own hostel. We live with the school kids in their hostel.”

Also read: Forced To Stay In Menstruation Hut, Woman Dies Of Suffocation

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.

“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 student added.

None of the girls have filed a police complaint yet, but in-charge vice-chancellor of Krantiguru Shyamji Krishna Verma has formed an internal committee to probe this matter.

College Trustee also spoke to Mirror and said that the college is a charitable organisation run on token money received from the students. Since it has a temple on the campus, the girls have to follow the rules, however he agreed that what happened to the girls was “unfair” and that action will be taken.

We are with the girls and we want them to speak up against any kind of injustice happening with them. -Dr Rajulben Desai, NCW Member

NCW member from Gujarat, Dr Rajulben Desai has taken Suo Moto cognizance of this matter. She has written to the DGP, trustee SSGI trustee P H Hirani and college principal Dr Raninga inquiring about this incident. Talking to SheThePeople, Desai says, “I am from Gujarat and I am also a principal of a law college so it’s not like it happens in all institutions in Gujarat. Since this institution falls in the Kutch area of the state and it is a spiritual institution, they have done such discrimination. My understanding of this incident is that they cannot arbitrarily implement such problematic rules on students. They must keep their spiritual thought to themselves and because it is an educational institution, it should not take such action and be neutral towards these things.”

Talking about girls being pressurized to not raise their voice against discrimination, she says that she got to know about this and she encourages young girls to write to the commission and take this matter up with the college. “We are with the girls and we want them to speak up against any kind of injustice happening with them,” she says.

Picture credit- ANI/Twitter

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