A seven-member team of the National Commission for Women (NCW) on Sunday met the women inmates of a hostel at Bhuj in Kutch district of Gujarat, who were allegedly forced to undergo a menstruation check by college authorities by removing their undergarments. The team was told that that that during the admission process, girl students had given their consent to the rules which said that they have to sleep and eat separately when menstruating.
The alleged incident took place on 11 February in the Shree Sahajanand Girls Institute (SSGI), run by a trust of the Swaminarayan Temple, when more than 60 undergraduate hostel inmates were lined up in the restroom and forced to remove their undergarments to prove they were not menstruating. The incident came to light on 14 February, when several women students protested outside the college against the stripping and the controversial hostel rules, reported Hindustan Times.
The Gujarat State Commission for Women took suo motu cognisance of the alleged incident and also sought a detailed report from the Bhuj police. The NCW set up an inquiry committee on 15 February.
After meeting the students, a member of the NCW said they were shocked to find that a register was being maintained at the hostel to identify the menstruating girls, who were then asked not have their meals in the dining hall and not to sleep on their beds. The team was also informed that the girls had consented to the rules and their only objection was to being stripped in order to check whether the rules were being followed or not.
"An educational institution works for social transformation. This transformation requires a change in our dogmatic tradition. But if such an incident takes place in 21st century, then this is definitely a matter of shame and disgrace," NCW member Rajulben Desai told PTI after meeting the hostel inmates and the hostel staff. "We will get to know about the whole thing only after proper investigation. But we were shocked to find that a majority of girls agreed to this practice being followed in the name of religion," she said.
"The response of the girls was shocking. While we talk about right to education, and while the commission is working to bring about legal awareness among women, the girls here said they consented to the rules framed by the hostel authorities regarding how they should eat and sleep during days of menstruation. We object to this," Desai said. "Why are girls making such statements? We will investigate if they are giving such statements under pressure," she said.
She said the NCW members talked to 47 girls who were present there on Sunday, but would continue the inquiry for two more days.
"But we will also talk to the girls who were not present at the meeting today, besides the main complainant. The question is about good and bad impact on the society," she said. "Should women in an educational institution be asked to follow such rules that put to question their right to dignity? No educational institute can force such a rule on girl students. Even if the institution is associated with religion, it cannot compel girls to follow such rules," she said.
The women's right panel also said that three women staffers of the institute have been suspended, reported ANI.
National Commission for Women on 68 female students in Bhuj (Gujarat) asked to remove inner-wear to check if they were menstruating: 3 female staff at Shree Sahjanand Girls Institute have been suspended. Inquiry team spoke&discussed with 44 girls (out of 68). pic.twitter.com/wnKLobwbll
— ANI (@ANI) February 16, 2020
"The hostel authorities maintain a register on menstruating women. The management has a lot to answer. The matter that has come to us will be probed over the next two days. We would like to find out if the colleges have internal anti-sexual harassment committee, and if it is there, then whether it has well-trained members?" she said.
Meanwhile, police said that an SIT has been formed with woman police officials as its members, to probe the incident.
"We have formed an SIT which includes women police personnel, including inspectors and sub-inspectors. As part of the probe, statements of students have been recorded, apart from those of the hostel staff members and others who knew about the incident," a police official said.
On Friday, college authorities had claimed that the some girls had allegedly broken the rules and had "voluntarily allowed" a woman employee to check them.
Darshana Dholakia, in-charge Vice-Chancellor of the Krantiguru Shyamji Krishna Verma Kutch University, to which the SSGI is affiliated, said, "The hostel has a rule that girls having periods are
not supposed to take meals with other inmates. However, some menstruating girls broke this rule. When the matter reached the authorities, some of the girls voluntarily allowed a woman employee to check them."
"The girls have told me they apologised to authorities for breaking hostel rules. They told me they were not threatened and it was they (girls) who were at fault. Technically, there is nothing much left to be done in this case," Dholakia claimed.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Feb 16, 2020 22:35:59 IST