The High Court of Jammu & Kashmir took suo moto cognizance when it found that most of the girls are dropping out of schools due to inadequate sanitation facilities.
The improper management of Menstrual hygiene facilities prevents the girls from exercising their Right to Education which is enshrined under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
The Court pointed,
“Deprived economic status and illiteracy leads to the prevalence of unhygienic and unhealthy practices which has serious health consequences.”
The bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Sindhu Sharma said that the main reason behind the inability of Adolescence girls in exercising their Right to education is the lack of proper awareness about Menstruation hygiene and the disheartening condition of the management of menstrual hygiene of girls in Educational institutions. Therefore, the High Court of Jammu & Kashmir has directed the Government of India and the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh to pay attention to proper management of Menstrual Hygiene facilities.
In the words of the Hon’ble High court,
“Inadequate Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) options would be a major barrier to education, even in Union Territories of Jammu &Kashmir and Ladakh, with many adolescent girls dropping out due to lack of access to sanitation facilities, menstrual products and the stigma associated with menstruation. The difficulties faced by these young girls are compounded by the fact that there are several educational facilities and institutions without basic toilet facilities. It cannot be denied that separate and basic toilets are essential for ensuring constitutional guarantees to these children.”
The bench also said that the inadequate education about the menstruation cycle of a woman to the masses carries a lot of taboos and false rumors attached to it. This misinformation ultimately affects the societal and personal life of a woman.
The prevalence of misconception that women & girls who are going through their menstrual cycle are contaminated and impure results in their expulsion from the societal places including the places of worship, workplace and even in their own home where they have to follow strict rules during that periods. These become the reasons which led the girls to drop out of school for those periods when they are having their menstrual cycle.
Further, the court highlighted the importance of menstruation in a hygienic way by stating that,
“It constitutes an integral component of basic hygiene, sanitation, and reproductive health services. Inadequate menstrual hygiene management compromises girls’ education, health, and wellbeing. Therefore, efforts to address these adequacies must involve the provision of sanitation and hygiene facilities along with creating an enabling social and physical environment that addresses all menstruation-related needs.”
The directives given by the court are mentioned below
- “The respondents shall conduct an audit and consider the issues detailed hereinafter and, place a report before this court regarding the feasibility of the matters noted by us. In case measures are in place, a status report thereof be filed before this court within six weeks from today.
- The status report shall set out the steps taken for the implementation of the various Government schemes noted above.
The respondents shall submit a report on the following:
- Availability of affordable menstrual hygiene products to all adolescent girls. If necessary, such products being made available at subsidized rates or even free of cost either within the school or in collaboration with local health centres/ clinics.
- Implementation of the current national schemes; development of contextual programs for awareness generation; provision of sanitary products and establishment of required facilities; implementation of the policies formulated across all schools whether Government aided or unaided and minority schools; ensuring access of every adolescent girl to a trained female school teacher/ health counsellor in the school premises on a periodical basis for imparting education about menstrual health, addressing concerns of the adolescent girls and for creation of awareness of personal hygiene; proper use and distribution of sanitary napkins in the school and at home and a day be also fixed say the last working day of the month for distribution of the sanitary products. Installation of vending machines in the school complexes should also be ensured.
- Action plan for sensitization and education on the subject of menstruation and menstrual hygiene.
- Each head of the school to nominate a female teacher as Nodal In-charge in his/her school for the above program and distribution of sanitary napkins among girl students free of cost.
- The Respondents shall place a report before this Court with regard to the implementation of the Menstrual Hygiene Scheme under the “Rashtriya Kishore Swasthiya Karyakaram” of the Government of India; the grant received and utilization thereof as also the outlay of the Government of the Union territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh on the scheme. Similar information to be provided regarding the implementation of other relevant schemes under the different ministries as and beyond mentioned in this order.
- The Respondents shall file an affidavit giving the details of programs in place with regard to the issues noted above as also the budgetary outlay on the same and the manner in which the schemes are being worked.
- The respondents’ Nos. (ix) & (xii) shall submit details of educational programs/ schemes as also the schedule of the programs for imparting education on the schemes in the schools of UTs of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
- The respondent no. (xiv) shall conduct an audit of every school in Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh with regard to the availability of separate working toilets for girl students in the schools. The respondents shall place on affidavit an action plan regarding the construction of hygienic and separate toilets inclusive of Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) features for girls in every school giving timelines within which the same shall be completed. This entails facilities with adequate lighting, ventilation, and other amenities such as clean water, soap, and disposal facilities such as incinerators inside the cubical. Furthermore, these sanitation facilities need to be inclusive and account for those with varied needs such as the differently-abled.
- The respondents shall place a report regarding adequate means of sanitary waste disposal mechanisms taking into account environmental concerns.”
It has been directed to file the affidavit within the next six months and the next hearing is scheduled for 10 February 2021.
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