On Monday, 68 undergraduate students at Sahjanand Girls Institute, Bhuj, were asked to remove their underwear to prove if they were menstruating after a used sanitary pad was found in the garden outside the hostel.
“It was sheer mental torture,” said a student, who was forced to undergo the test, told the Times of India.
It’s been three days since the incident but no police complaint has been registered. However, the Kutch University authorities have formed a five-member team, including the incharge vice-chancellor Darshna Dholakia, to probe the matter. “We will speak to the students and the college authority and later initiate appropriate action based on the findings,” said Dholakia.
Swaminarayan hostel rules
According to students, on Monday, the warden found the used sanitary pad. Immediately after, she informed principal Rita Rangia, who called all the girls to assemble in college’s common area.
The principal, students say, gave a lecture on hostel rules set by the followers of Swaminarayan Mandir, who also established the institute in the year 2012. After that, she asked the girls to declare if they were menstruating. Two girls did.
Rangia and some other teachers, however, were not convinced and took the girls one by one to the washroom and asked them to strip.
According to the rules, menstruating female are not allowed to enter the temple and kitchen. They cannot stay inside the hostel room but in the basement area. They cannot socialise and have to sit in the last benches in the classroom during their periods. They cannot even touch other students.
On Thursday, students told the media that when they took up the matter to the college trustee, Pravin Pindoria, he dodged it. “He asked us to forget about the incident,” said a student.
Pindoria, on the other hand, says that the hostel rules have to be followed.
“…We inform the girls about the hostel rules before they take admission. It’s possible that some of the teachers may have enforced the rules a little strictly. I have called a meeting of the administrative committee which will take action against the responsible persons,” he said.
Parents of the students are now planning to lodge an FIR against the institute and its principal.
“I do believe in rules, but they have no right to torture my daughter in this manner,” said a father of one of the girls, who follows the Swaminarayan sect.
Similar cases in the past
This is not the first time that a school or institution has forced female students to strip over a sanitary pad.
Last year, in May, wardens at Akal University in Punjab allegedly made a dozen girls strip after they found a used sanitary pad in the hostel washroom.
After the incident, students filed a complaint with vice-chancellor Gurmail Singh and held a protest on campus demanding legal action against the wardens and security guards.
However, the authorities, who initially described the incident as a small mistake, ultimately terminated the services of all those accused after the protest gained momentum.
In 2018, two government school teachers in Punjab’s Fazilka district allegedly stripped two girls when they found a used sanitary pad in the school’s toilet. The state government ordered action after the chief minister was informed about the incident, NDTV reported.
The two teachers were then transferred to other locations.
In 2017, 70 girls in a residential school in Muzaffarnagar were allegedly forced to strip by the Principal who wanted to check for menstrual blood. A student told Hindustan Times that a school official ordered girls to remove their clothes when they saw blood stains in the bathroom.
Similarly, in 2015, a school headmistress in Karnataka made over 12 girls strip to search for a missing 100 rupee note. The state education department later suspended the headmistress after parents held a protest outside the school, India Today reported.
Featured image credit: Official site of Sahjanand Girls Institute, Bhuj