11 April 2023 2:17 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Monday (April 10) directed the central government to frame a National Policy on menstrual hygiene for school-going girls in the country. The bench comprising CJI DY Chandrachud, Justice PS Narasimha, and Justice JB Pardiwala stated that the said policy must ensure low cost sanitary napkins and safe disposal mechanisms of sanitary napkins in schools. The bench was...
The Supreme Court on Monday (April 10) directed the central government to frame a National Policy on menstrual hygiene for school-going girls in the country. The bench comprising CJI DY Chandrachud, Justice PS Narasimha, and Justice JB Pardiwala stated that the said policy must ensure low cost sanitary napkins and safe disposal mechanisms of sanitary napkins in schools. The bench was considering a petition seeking directions to the Union of India, the States, and the Union Territories to ensure, among other things, provisions for sanitary pads to girl children in class 6-12 and separate toilets for girls in all government, government aided schools, and residential schools.
While noting that the petitioner raised an "important issue of public interest bearing on need of menstrual hygiene of girls who are studying in schools", the bench directed the Union Government to ensure that a uniform National Policy with regards to menstrual hygiene is made. It also took into account the counter affidavit placed on record by the Union Government as per which three ministries of the Union, namely, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Jal Shakti, and Ministry of Education (MoE) dealt with the matter.
The bench also observed in the order–
"States also have vital role to play. States should send the Union their menstrual hygiene policies within a period of 4 weeks. We are nominating the secretary of MoHFW as the nodal officer to facilitate communication of all ministries and states. States and UTs shall also indicate the ratio of girls in schools. All states and UTs shall ensure low cost sanitary napkins and safe disposal mechanisms. An updated status report shall be placed on record by Union Govt in 3 months."
As per the petition, the inadequate Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) options were a major barrier to education, with many girls dropping out of school due to lack of access to sanitation facilities, menstrual products and the stigma associated with menstruation.
The petition not only prayed for free sanitary napkins and toilets in school, but also prayed for a three stage awareness program that -
1. Creates awareness about menstrual health and dispels the taboo surrounding it;
2. Provides adequate sanitation facilities and subsidised or free sanitary products to women, especially in disadvantaged areas;
3. Ensures an efficient and sanitary manner of menstrual waste disposal.
Case Title: Jaya Thakur v GoI And Ors. WP(C) No. 1000/2022
Citation : 2023 LiveLaw (SC) 309
Menstrual Hygiene, Distribution of free sanitary pads to school children, establishment of disposal units - it would be appropriate if the Union Government engages with all the State governments and Union Territories to ensure that a uniform national policy is formulated with sufficient leeway for the States and Union Territories to make adjustments, based on the prevailing conditions in their territories-Bearing in mind the importance of the issue which has been raised, we direct that all States and Union Territories must submit their menstrual hygiene management strategies and plans which are being executed either with the help of funds provided by the Central Government or through their own funds to the Mission Steering Group of the National Health Mission within a period of four weeks-the States and Union Territories shall also indicate to the Mission Steering Group of the National Health Mission the appropriate ratio of female toilets for residential and non-residential schools for their respective territories- All States and Union Territories shall also indicate the steps which have been taken to provide for the availability of low cost sanitary pads and vending machines in schools and for appropriate disposal mechanisms. Besides making a provision for ensuring the availability of low cost sanitary pads and vending machines in all schools, they shall also ensure that disposal mechanisms are available in schools/school complexes with enrollment of female students in upper primary, secondary and higher secondary classes for safe disposal of sanitary pads.
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