India’s uncomfortable relationship with periods is back in the headlines.
College students living in a hostel in the western Indian state of Gujarat have complained that they were made to strip and show their underwear to female teachers to prove that they were not menstruating.
The 68 young women were pulled out of classrooms and taken to the toilet, where they were asked to individually remove their knickers for inspection.
The incident took place in the city of Bhuj last Tuesday. The young women are undergraduate students at Shree Sahajanand Girls Institute, which is run by Swaminarayan sect, a wealthy and conservative Hindu religious group.
They said a hostel official had complained to the college principal on Monday that some of the students were breaking rules menstruating women are supposed to follow.
According to these rules, women are barred from entering the temple and the kitchen and are not allowed to touch other students during their periods.
At meal times, they have to sit away from others, they have to clean their own dishes, and in the classroom, they are expected to sit on the last bench.
One of the students said the hostel maintains a register where they are expected to enter their names when they get their periods, which helps the authorities to identify them.
But for the past two months, not one student had entered her name in the register.
So on Monday, the hostel official complained to the principal that menstruating students were entering the kitchen, going near the temple, and mingling with other hostellers.
The students allege that, the next day, they were abused by the hostel official and the principal before they were forced to strip.
They described what happened to them as a “very painful experience” that had left them “traumatised” and amounted to “mental torture”. (BBC)