School authorities at Shree Sahajanand Girls Institute in Gujarat (India) forced a group of 68 undergraduate students to congregate in the restroom and individually strip so teachers could inspect their undergarments for evidence of menstruation.
It happened because of a complex tapestry of Hindu religious and cultural taboos around menstruation, which ultimately result in prohibitions barring anyone currently menstruating from entering a temple or a kitchen. They are not even allowed to touch others who are not menstruating.
This is because the menstrual period is traditionally considered a time of “ritual impurity” in Hinduism.
The students involved in the incident came from distant villages and were obliged to live in a hostel on campus in order to receive an education at a school that claims to value “self-development and empowerment of girls through modern, scientific, and value-based education.”
Perhaps it goes without saying, but there is no modern scientific evidence indicating that menstruation makes the human body “ritually impure.”
It appears that the hostel’s rector complained to Principal Rita Raninga after finding a soiled sanitary napkin on the grounds, accusing students of breaking the ritual taboos. The principal called the hostel-dwelling students out of class to speak to them.
Although two girls acknowledged that they were currently menstruating, Raninga and the other teachers insisted on dragging the entire group to the restroom, where each girl was forced to undress in front of four female teachers.
One student, who spoke anonymously to the Ahmedabad Mirror, said that students’ menstruation had been an issue at the school for some time.
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… 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.
Another student alleged that the school contacted parents to warn them against involving the police, calling it a “religious matter.”
School trustee P. H. Hirani objected to the girls’ treatment in the mildest possible terms:
We run a charitable organisation and take token fee [sic]. As the institute has a temple on campus, the girls have been instructed to follow the sect’s rules. However, what happened to the students is unfair. Action will be taken.
Some 88% of Gujarat’s population is Hindu, according to a 2011 census. However, the students’ families — at least in some cases — aren’t letting the religious elements of the situation stand as an excuse for abuses against their children. One father told reporters:
I came to see my daughter after learning what had happened to her in the hostel. Then, I met other girls who also went through the same trauma. I couldn’t help but tell the media about it as it is absolutely wrong to treat our daughters in such a manner. I think the culprits should be dealt with stringent punishments. I am not saying that the rules should not be followed. We have no issues with the religious body and its rules but the teachers and principal must be punished for their inhuman behaviour.
He’s right. Here’s hoping there’s enough criticism and pressure against the school that this never happens again.
(Screenshot via YouTube)