The Delhi High Court, last week, sought to know the steps taken by Civic bodies in the schools run by it to sensitize students on menstrual hygiene.
The Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C. Hari Shankar took note of an affidavit filed by the State Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, referring to the 'Menstrual Hygiene Scheme' for out of school/drop out adolescent girls under the Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK). It had also submitted a scheme for provision of sanitary napkins “free of cost” to adolescent girls enrolled in Government/Government aided schools.
The Court, however, noted that the Ministry had not specified the necessary budget for implementation of this scheme. It then pointed out that as per disclosures made by the Centre, an amount of Rs. 27 lakhs has been granted to the State for the current Financial Year through the National Health Mission for decentralized procurement of sanitary napkins.
New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) had also submitted the steps taken for sensitization programs being undertaken in the schools run by it. Taking note of this submission, the Court directed it to "ensure that a robust and effective programme on the subject is undertaken". It further sought to be informed of the availability of separate toilets for the girls in schools run by the NDMC.
Next came the turn of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC), which submitted that it had commenced sensitization and training of 134 Principals of its schools under the aegis of the NGO 'SARD'. The Principals are then expected to sensitize the teachers and children in their schools.
The steps taken by the civic body impressed the Court, which then observed, "It appears, therefore, that the respondent No.8 is taking effective steps for sensitization of its Principals and Teachers in schools run by it. SDMC is expected to implement the programme which has been set out and to ensure that there is widespread sensitization of the students on this vital subject."
The Court, however, noted SDMC's submission that no funds have been allotted by the State Government for implementation of RKSK in its schools. The Civic Body had, in fact, submitted that due to this, the money from the fund for the boys was being diverted in order to provide sanitary napkins to female students. The Court then directed the Health Ministry to examine this grievance and ensure that the needful is done at the earliest.
Meanwhile, the submissions made by the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) did not go down well with the Court. The Civic Body had submitted that since the average age of menstruation for Indian girls is 11 to 14 years, it does not need to educate students on the subject.
The Court, however, noted that the SDMC had submitted that 5% to 10% girls studying in class IV and V standard menstruate. It then observed, "In view thereof, the respondent No.9 (EDMC) cannot disown its response for undertaking steps for sensitization and educating as is being implemented by the respondent No.8 (SDMC) in it schools. We direct the respondent No.9 to place before this Court the programme and an action plan setting out the timeline of sensitization programme which it would undertake in order to educate girl students of menstruation and menstruation hygiene. Such an affidavit shall be filed within four weeks from today."
The Court has been approached by Advocates Setu Niket and Esha Mazumdar, flagging the issue of lack of access to information, knowledge and education on menstruation and menstrual hygiene in Delhi. They have contended that the issue can be addressed by the city schools, by making such information a part of the curriculum. The matter has now been listed on 23 January.