SSGI
The students were told to undress after a used sanitary napkin was found in a garden outside Sahjanand Girls Institute Image Credit: Social Media

AHMEDABAD: At least 68 girl students of Shree Sahajanand Girls Institute (SSGI) in Gujarat's Bhuj were allegedly forced to remove their innerwear to prove that they were not menstruating.

The students are now demanding action legal action against the authorities of the education institution for making such a move.

The students were told to undress after a used sanitary napkin was found in a garden outside Sahjanand Girls Institute, where they are banned from the hostel when they are having their periods.

"There are no words to describe the humiliation that we faced," said one of the students protesting outside the college in Bhuj, in the western state of Gujarat.

Deep-rooted social taboos remain in India around menstruating women. In some rural areas, women are made to sleep separately during periods. They are banned from entering some temples.

College authorities lined up 68 students in the washroom and ordered them to undress one by one, the students told reporters.

The college is run by the conservative Hindu sect Swaminarayan. The sect runs lavish temples around the world, including in London.

Its rules bar students from staying in the hostel during their periods.

Menstruating women students must stay in an isolated basement area and keep away from the kitchen and the place of worship.

A view of the Shree Sahajanand Girls Institute
A view of the Shree Sahajanand Girls Institute Image Credit: Courtesy of www.ssgi.co.in

They also have to sit at the back of the classroom during lectures.

The college said it had set up an inquiry and indicated action could be taken against the staff behind the checks.

College trustee Pravin Pindoria said: "The girls were informed about the hostel rules before they took admission.

"I have called a meeting of the administrative committee which will take action against the responsible persons."

NCW takes cognisance of 'strip test' incident

The National Commission for Women (NCW) has taken cognisance of a media report of the incident in which girls were allegedly forced to undergo 'strip' test to check if they were menstruating.

"The Commission is disturbed by the report of this incident at Sahjanand Girls' Institute in Bhuj, Gujarat. The report also states that the Kutch University authorities have taken the matter for internal query and based on the finding they would take further actions," read a statement from the NCW.

"NCW 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 Gujarat, Shivanand Jha, to look into the matter thoroughly and report to the Commission at the earliest on their action taken reports to date," the statement added.

Besides this, NCW has also written to the Sahjanand Girls' Institute Trustee, Pravin Pindora, and Principal Rita Raniga to "give explanation of this shameful exercise" that has taken 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 statement read.