The Supreme Court has rejected the government’s arguments and ordered that women officers of the Indian Army be given positions of command. For a modern country, this is exactly how it should be. Sadly, too many Indians still seem to think there are some roles women should be denied. Such attitudes are derived at least partly from an old taboo that still has a menses police in operation in some parts of India.
Just last week, Bhuj sent shockwaves across India again. In an appalling incident, some 66 students of Shree Sahjanand Girls Institute in the Gujarat town were summoned from class and subjected to a menses check that required them to undress. A used sanitary pad spotted on campus was said to have raised an alarm. College principal Rita Raninga was booked, along with hostel officials, and the National Commission for Women had to step in. Some victims revealed it was a routine affair on campus. Reports suggest that the college was tracking menstrual cycles to pack students off to a dingy basement for isolation during their periods. A few girls have alleged threats were issued to hush them up on all this.
The episode echoes the Muzaffarnagar scandal of 2017, when 70 girls of a residential school were forced to strip by its menses police. The persistence of this primitive taboo on mingling during menstruation puts India’s progress at risk. It not only makes a mockery of modernity, the false notions of “purity" it draws upon serve as a patriarchal tool to justify social mores that cordon women off. It thus fans gender prejudice and violates our right to equality. The menses police needs to be disbanded everywhere—now!