The shocking incident took place in India, where women who are menstruating are not allowed to enter temples or kitchens.
In India, menstruation is highly stigmatized. Because of the country's deeply-entrenched cultural traditions, periods have become taboo. Menstruators are often silenced and taught that their bodies are "impure" or "dirty" simply because they menstruate, which should be nothing but a natural biological process. In addition to being coerced into silence, menstruators are expected to keep out of the kitchen (for fear of contaminating food), are not allowed inside their places of worship (such as temples or mosques), and are sometimes even told to keep to themselves and avoid touching others. Earlier this week, a college in the state of Gujarat, India, came under fire for forcing girls to remove their underwear and prove that they were not menstruating after they were suspected of entering their dorm kitchens while on their periods. According to the students, harassment under the precursor of menstruation is sadly a common occurrence in their college, Ahmedabad Mirror reports.
The traumatic incident took place in Shri Sahjanand Girls’ Institute, a college reportedly dedicated to the "self-development and empowerment of girls through modern, scientific, and value-based education." A total of 68 girls were instructed to remove their underwear and prove that they were not on their periods after their hostel rector filed a complaint alleging that they were breaking "religious norms." Women teachers made the students file into dormitory washrooms and take off their underwear after school principal Rita Raninga berated them. "The hostel administration leveled this allegation and insulted us on Wednesday," one student explained. "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. The principal abused and insulted us, asking which of us were [on] our periods. Two of us who were menstruating stepped aside. 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."
Needless to say, this was a disturbing incident that should have never taken place. Unfortunately, it appears that experiences like these are commonplace for the students of Shri Sahjanand Girls’ Institute. Another student shared, "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." The most recent incident, she said, was the last straw. The student affirmed, "Enough is enough." While the girls are frustrated with the situation, they were warned against filing a police complaint. "When we protested against this [incident], 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." College administration officials also called the students' parents and emotionally blackmailed them, stating that this was a religious issue and should therefore not be reported to the police.
Nonetheless, the college has reaffirmed its intention to take strict action against those involved. "We run a charitable organization and take [a] token fee. As the institute has a temple on campus, the girls have been instructed to follow the sect’s rules," college trustee P. H. Hirani stated. "However, what happened to the students is unfair. Action will be taken." A First Information Report was also filed by the Gujarat Police against the college principal, hostel warden, and two hostel assistants, India Today reports. Additionally, a fact-finding committee has been instituted in order to investigate the incident. There is little hope that the perpetrators of this shocking incident will be brought to justice. However, as more awareness is raised about the natural biological process of menstruation, the less stigmatized it becomes. The taboo must end.