The Supreme Court Monday 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. A bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud also asked the Union government about the policy it has formulated for distribution of sanitary napkins to female school students nationally.
The bench, also comprising Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, said the Centre should bring uniformity in the procedure for distribution of sanitary napkins.
During the hearing, the Centre informed the apex court that a draft national policy for distribution of sanitary napkins free of cost to school-going girls has been formulated and sent to stakeholders for eliciting their comments.
The top court had 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 will take recourse to the ”coercive arm of law” if they failed to do so.
On April 10, the apex court had 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 had noted that MoHFW, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Jal Shakti have schemes on menstrual hygiene management.
It had 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 a period of four weeks.
The apex court had 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 had 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 and social worker Jaya Thakur has said adolescent females from poor background between the age 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 says.