Sir — Cases of tuberculosis are on the rise in India. Yet, the Union health minister, Harsh Vardhan, has set a goal of eradicating TB from India by 2025. One problem with TB is that it is often considered a ‘poor man’s disease’, leading many to live under the misguided idea that it will not affect them. This can delay diagnosis. Further, there is also social stigma associated with TB, which prompts patients to hide their infection out of the fear of being discriminated against. Unless there is a change in the mindset regarding TB, the disease cannot be brought under control, let alone be eradicated.
Sir — It was shocking to learn that over 60 women students in a college hostel were asked by the authorities to remove their undergarments to check if they were menstruating (“Ugly truth”, Feb 20). This shameful incident occurred owing to the lack of awareness of the fact that menstruation is a natural process. Yet, it is considered a taboo and people are often embarrassed to discuss it openly, in not only rural but also urban India. Several restrictions are imposed on women as a result. Such strictures end up limiting women’s and adolescent girls’ access to relevant information regarding menstruation; they are reluctant to talk about their problems or ask questions about menstrual health. For instance, women in villages have to use unhygienic alternatives to sanitary napkins because of their lack of knowledge and the shame associated with periods.
This backward mindset has an overall negative effect since women are treated unfairly while they menstruate. There is a thus a need to create social awareness so that women are not ashamed of their periods. Educational programmes at schools can go a long way towards reducing the stigma associated with menstruation among the future generations.
Sir — Shree Sahajanand Girls Institute in Bhuj, Gujarat, seems to still be following medieval rules. One such rule is that menstruating girls are not supposed to have their meals with the other residents. This rule seems to have prompted the disgraceful incident where the students were forced to remove their underwear to prove that they were not menstruating. The hostel authorities violated the privacy of female students.
The rule itself is meaningless and should be done away with. Purity and sanctity are not biological or physical attributes. The trust of the Swaminarayan Temple, which runs the hostel, should change with the times rather than encouraging primitive practices that discriminate against women. A student has reported that women are ill-treated in this manner on the orders of the college principal. Strict action has been demanded against her and those who were involved in stripping the women. An investigation should be carried out and those found guilty should be punished for the assault on the dignity of the women who underwent the traumatic experience.
Haran Chandra Mandal,
Sir — Indian society is unreasonably obsessed with menstruation. The incident where hostel students were stripped of their clothes and dignity to check if they were menstruating is not the only instance of this. So-called light-hearted comments by friends and well-wishers about “PMS-ing” are a sign of how deep the rot runs. Any woman who dares to passionately express her opinion or shows signs of emotional stress is immediately asked if she is undergoing hormonal imbalances owing to the premenstrual syndrome. This trivialization is as bad as the idea that menstruating women are impure.
Sir — It is sad that over 60 girls in a hostel in Gujarat’s Kutch district were asked to remove their undergarments to prove that they were not menstruating. The incident should be condemned. The matter must be investigated and stringent action taken against those involved in this demeaning incident. Shame on those who consider women to be inferior to men because they menstruate.