Supreme Court to hear plea on free sanitary pads for girl students on July 8

SC will hear plea seeking directions to the Centre and states for free sanitary pads to girl students of Class 6-12 and separate female toilet facilities in schools.

SC will hear plea on sanitary pads on July 8. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)SC will hear plea on sanitary pads on July 8. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Press Trust of India | July 6, 2024 | 08:55 PM IST

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear on July 8 a plea seeking directions to the Centre and states to provide free sanitary pads to girl students of class 6-12 and ensure separate female toilet facilities in all government-aided and residential schools. A bench of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justices J P Pardiwala and Manoj Misra is scheduled to hear the plea of Congress leader and social worker Jaya Thakur in which she has highlighted the difficulties faced by adolescent females from poor backgrounds in the schools.

During the last hearing of the matter on February 5, Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati informed that the Centre is in the process of collating all necessary material to form a national policy on the distribution of menstrual hygiene products to school-going girls in terms of the orders dated April 10, 2023, and November 6, 2023. On June 13, the Union education ministry, in an advisory to schools, said girl students should be allowed to take necessary restroom breaks during board exams for classes 10 and 12 and free sanitary napkins must be made available at all examination centres. The Supreme Court is set to reopen on July 8 after summer vacation.

On November 6, the top court directed the Centre to lay down a national model for building toilets commensurate with the number of girl students in all government-aided and residential schools across the country. While emphasising uniform procedure, it also asked the Union government about the policy it has formulated for the distribution of sanitary napkins to female school students nationally. During the hearing, the Centre informed the apex court that a draft national policy for the distribution of sanitary napkins free of cost to school-going girls has been formulated and sent to stakeholders to elicit their comments.

Menstrual hygiene, female toilets

The top court earlier warned the states, which had not submitted their response to the Centre on formulating a uniform national policy on menstrual hygiene for girls studying in schools, that it would take recourse to the "coercive arm of the law" if they failed to do so. On April 10, the apex court appointed the secretary of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) as the nodal officer to coordinate with states and UTs and collect relevant data for formulating a national policy. It noted that MoHFW, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Jal Shakti have schemes on menstrual hygiene management. The court also ordered all states and UTs to submit their menstrual hygiene management strategies and plans that are being executed with the help of funds provided by the Centre or through their own resources to the Mission Steering Group of the National Health Mission within four weeks.

The apex court said the states and UTs shall also indicate to the Mission Steering Group of the National Health Mission the appropriate ratio of female toilets for residential and non-residential schools in their respective territories. It asked all states and UTs to also indicate the steps which have been taken to provide low-cost sanitary pads and vending machines in schools and their appropriate disposal.

The plea filed by Congress leader Thakur has said adolescent females from poor backgrounds between the ages of 11 and 18 years face serious difficulties in receiving education, a constitutional right under Article 21A of the Constitution. "These are adolescent females who are not equipped with and are also not educated by their parents about menstruation and menstrual hygiene. "The deprived economic status and illiteracy lead to a prevalence of unhygienic and unhealthy practices which have serious health consequences, increase obstinacy and lead to eventual dropping out from schools," the petition said.

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