Gandhinagar: Although there is a growing "Pad Man" movement with every effort being made to end the stigma around menstruation, a college run by Swaminarayan sect in Gujarat's Bhuj town has sparked controversy after they ordered girl students to strip to check whether they were in period.
The diktat has landed them into trouble with both the state and the national woman commission.
The National Commission for Women in a letter to issued to the media said : "Have come across a media report captioned, "68 girls in Kutch institute hostel forced to undergo ‘strip'", reported on February 14, 2020.
"The Commission is disturbed by the report of this incident at Sahjanand Girls' Institute in Bhuj, Gujurat. The reports also states that, Kutch University authorities have taken the matter for internal query and based on the finding they would take further actions.
"National Commission for Women will set up an inquiry team and visit the girls at the institute hostel, to speak and inquire about the incident. NCW has also appraised the Kutch University in-charge Vice Chancellor Darshna Dholakia and the DGP of Gujurat, Shivanand Jha (IPS) to look into the matter thoroughly and report to the Commission at the earliest on their action taken reports to date.
"National Commission for Women has written to the Sahjanand Girls' Institute College Trustee, Pravin Pindora and the Principal, Rita Raniga to give explanation of this shameful exercise taking place in their Institute.
"The Commission encourages the girls from the Institute to come forward and speak without fear on their grievances from this experience to the finding authority, or on any other similar incidents of exploitation if occurred to them in the past, and was not addressed before."
The Gujarat State Women Commission (GSWC) has also ordered the state police to carry out a probe regarding the alleged sexual harassment of students who were forced to remove their undergarments in order to allow the checking whether they were in menstrual cycles.
The women panel, taking cognizance of media reports ordered the probe.
"Through media reports, I came to know about the incident. I have spoken with the Police Commissioner and DSP Kutch regarding the matter.
"I have ordered them to carry out an investigation regarding the shocking incident. I have also asked our women members of 'Nari Adalat' to look into the matter and speak with the college students.
"We already have a team comprising four members in Bhuj, who will be leaving shortly for the said college," Leelaben Ankola, the GSWC chairperson told IANS.
"It will be only after the police investigation, that we will be able to tell whether the incidents requires a formal complaint to be lodged or not," added Ankola.
The GSWC orders came following media reports that dozens of women students residing in the girls hostel of the college run by the Shree Swami Narayan Kanya Mandir in Bhuj were asked to remove their undergarments following suspicion that they were menstruating (when certain norms were expected to be followed under archaic societal tradition).
The humiliating and public crackdown on students came after the college administration thought that the girls were violating norms banning menstruating women from touching others and entering some spaces.
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