Suchi Kapoor (Nalandaway foundation)

Promote, Protect and Preserve The Health & Hygiene of adolescent girls

Sheela Vs. State of M.P., W.P. No. 6840/2020 | High Court of Indore | Status: Pending | |

Adolescent girls are entitled to a fundamental right to health in their right to life and equality under article 21, 14 and 15. The State has failed to promote, protect and preserve the health & hygiene of adolescent girls. The right to health & hygiene includes the access and availability of sanitary napkins in order to prevent infections and other health problems, such as a higher risk of ovarian or cervical cancer which is a result of the use of used cloth or other unhygienic means of menstrual protection. . As mid-day meal is compulsory for the good health , calorie and protein-full diet as provided by government school. Likewise girls hygiene must also be treated sincerely and should be provided compulsorily sanitary napkins to all government schools.

That the instant is a writ petition filed in public interest under Article 226 of the Constitution of India seeking issuance of writ of mandamus or any other appropriate writ, order or direction of this Hon'ble Court to the Respondents for implementation of Menstrual hygiene and health under various schemes initiated by the Government of India for adolescent girls who belong to the poor background and studying in Govt. schools.

According to Menstruation Hygiene Scheme, ASHA workers are given free sanitary napkins pack  every month  for the work they do i.e. to distribute sanitary napkins to adolescent girls at subsidized rates (Rs. 6 for 6 napkins) , to spread awareness regarding menstruation hygiene among them. As per this scheme sanitary napkins had to be provided through either door to door services or by Anganwadi centers or ASHA workers, but the reality is the girls who were interviewed stated that they aren’t aware about any door to door services, Anganwadi facilities or the role of ASHA workers.

According to SABLA Scheme aims at empowering adolescent girls from 11 to 12 years by improving their nutritional health status. The girls would be equipped with information on personal hygiene (Including menstrual hygiene).  It’s one of the objective is to promote awareness about health hygiene, nutrition, adolescent reproductive which include menstrual hygiene.

Many girl students of government schools are suffering from different types of health issues because of using cloth as an alternative to sanitary napkin during menstruation. The adolescent girls are denied their basic rights. The adolescent girls lack access to proper menstrual hygiene facilities like availability, accessibility and affordability of sanitary napkins, awareness regarding menstrual hygiene. They even lack basic access to menstruation health products, the lack of awareness among the adolescent girls make them susceptible to various reproductive health related infections such as, cervical or ovarian cancer, Urinary tract Infections. Lack of accessibility to the hygiene products and the social stigma attached to menstruation has also resulted in the regressive practice of adolescent girls dropping out of schools. Government of India has taken the initiative and issued the GR (Govt. Circular No. D. O. No.4-160(10)/2013-NCW dt. 03/09/2014) to install the vending machine which provides sanitary napkin in emergency. In some schools Vending machines for sanitary napkins are installed but they are not in a workable condition, ultimately leading to unavailability of sanitary napkins to adolescent girls in emergency situations. Also there are some girls who are not even able to afford sanitary napkins through these vending machines due to financial constraints. About Govt. Circular No. D. O. No.4-160(10)/2013-NCW .

Even Anganwadi Centres are lacking in disseminating menstrual health hygiene management through awareness and sensitization programme to the adolescent girls. There are various government schemes through which specified authorities are required to provide various menstrual health and nutritional benefits along with the supply of sanitary napkins at nominal prices through ASHA workers and AWWs to the adolescent girls. The respondent carries joint responsibility to ensure implementation of the scheme which they have failed to.

On behalf of the petitioners HRLN interns have done fact-finding in 8 government schools. They found that there is no awareness and consciousness about sanitation in schools and government don’t even acknowledge this. Students of government have no knowledge about government schemes. Vending Machines are found in some of the government schools, they are defected. But, some schools don’t even have them.

That, State has failed to ensure that the school going girls get proper awareness regarding menstrual hygiene. The respondents have failed to fulfill their obligations under Constitution of India and has also infringed upon the fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 21 of  the  Constitution of India which talks about Right to life which further includes Right to health as being encapsulated as a Fundamental Constitutional guarantee   in numerous cases.