Father of girl who was among those forced to take ‘strip test’ says she refuses to go back to the Bhuj college

| Kulsum Yusuf
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She left home to pursue the dream of a better future for herself and her family. Her father is a farmer in their village near Bhuj. However, last week’s development has scarred her so badly that she has given up that dream. Sona (name changed) is one of the 68 students of Shree Sahajanand Girls Institute (SSGI) in Bhuj who were forced to undergo a ‘strip test’ last week to prove they were not menstruating.

“I will never forget her reaction when she saw us on the campus after that incident,” says the father of the SYBSc student. According to sources, the torture of the girls at the hands of trustees, hostel authorities, college principal and others had begun even before the ‘strip test’. When on February 11, they were forced to remove their underpants to prove that they were not menstruating, they were reduced to tears. Since hostellers are not allowed to use phones, the girls could not inform anyone. However, one of the day scholars, also a friend of Sona, went and informed her father about the incident.

“She told me the girls were extremely upset and she was afraid they might end up doing something to themselves,” said Sona’s father. He, his wife and other daughter went to the college the next day. Since he did not know where to find her, he requested girls there to locate her and tell her they had arrived. “When she saw us, she ran to me and clung to me tightly. She started wailing and said, ‘I have lost my honour. I do not want to study any more. Please take me home’. She is still in trauma and refuses to go back,” said the father, his voice shaking. “This injustice is not to these girls alone, but to all girls of the country. It should not happen to anyone.”

As news spread, the government formed an SIT to probe the incident. CM Vijay Rupani asked the Home and the Education departments to take strict action in the case.

‘We don’t mind rules, but this?’

Visibly embittered, the father said, “We had sent our girl to study, not to be humiliated like this. Because of whatever happened in the hostel and in college, my girl is in severe trauma. Now she doesn’t want to study anymore.”

“The girls follow all the rules that they have. We have no objection to any of those rules. The college administration officials say we signed documents saying we would adhere to the rules. I am not aware of such an undertaking… I do not remember… But even if I have signed such a document, this humiliation was uncalled for,” he said. He claimed such incidents have happened there in the past too, but it is only now that this one came to light, that too because everyone raised their voice.

‘College resorted to emotional blackmail’

The college authorities have tried out every possible tactic to prevent the issue from intensifying. They locked up the girls in a hostel room and threatened them against saying anything about the incident to anyone if they wished to continue there.

Confirming previous reports, Sona’s father said, “They keep telling us they are doing charity by educating our girls and by filing a case, we are doing ‘adharma (immoral act)’ and will incur god’s wrath.” He added, “There was lot of pressure on police to not file an FIR. Even we were threatened, but we are ready to fight it out. “Proper investigation should be done and the responsible person must be punished.”

Motherhood’s welcome, but menstruation is not?
Discussion was held in Bhuj on Sunday where participants stressed on need to spread awareness about and end taboo around monthly cycle

| Ahmedabad Mirror Bureau

What started with the intent to allow rest to women during menstruation has taken the form of an unshakeable tradition that has stigmatised a bodily function to the extent that women end up being victimised because of it. That was the opinion shared by several participants at a discussion organised in light of the shocking incident in Shree Sahajanand Girls Institute in Bhuj last week where 68 girls were forced to remove their underpants to prove they were not menstruating. The event on Sunday was held at Pensioner Otla near Hamirsar Lake.
The participants included teachers, parents, activists, writers and others. Most of them stressed on the need to spread awareness about menstruation. School teacher Raziya Memon said, “At our institute, we often invite gynaecologists to guide our girl students. All our women teachers are instructed to guide them with utmost care and sympathy. In the past, such customs were prevalent, but now when women go out and work and take up equal responsibilities, there should be no place for such blind beliefs.”

Calling the Bhuj incident shameful, Bhavna Mankad, a participant, said, “Menstruation indicates the possibility of motherhood. Even 50 years ago, menstruation was not considered a taboo in my family.”
Another participant, Utkantha Dholakia, stressed on the need to impart sex education and spread more awareness about human physiology among young adolescents. “My family has never discriminated against me because of menstruation. I have been teaching adolescents and teens and on the basis of 23 years of experience, I can say that the youth still don’t know a lot about their bodies. While those involved in this incident must be punished, we need to become a more aware society.”
Deenaben, deputy sarpanch of Ludva village in Mandvi taluka, said, “Menstruation is a natural phenomenon. It should not be related to any religion. If there was no menstruation, there would be no creation. Everyone loves it when a child is born but why is a woman considered untouchable during menstruation? This incident is truly shameful.”

Participants at the event at Hamirsar Lake in Bhuj on Sunday evening

Menstruation leads to motherhood. It is shameful that such an incident happened. If religious leaders don’t understand this, what will they teach others?
Pooja Kashyap, writer

If menstruation makes females impure, why do animals not show discriminatory behaviour? This tradition was intended to give rest to women during menstruation
Jitesh Dave, AIR announcer

This (Bhuj incident) is a worrisome development. There should be no place for traditions that disenfranchise or discriminate against women in any way
Ushma Shukla, teacher

Traditions must be changed with time. In this case, it seems that the officials, in an attempt to prevent the girls from making a mistake, took the matter too far
Jagruti Vakil,