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National policy on distribution of menstrual hygiene products at advanced stage: Centre to SC

The top court was hearing a plea of Congress leader and social activist Jaya Thakur seeking directions to the Centre and the states to provide free sanitary pads to girl students of class 6-12.
Last Updated : 08 July 2024, 13:19 IST

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New Delhi: The national policy on distribution of menstrual hygiene products to adolescent school-going girls is at an advanced stage of formulation, the Centre told the Supreme Court on Monday.

A bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice J B Pardiwala took note of the submissions of Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the Centre, and allowed her plea for grant of two more months for framing of the policy.

The top court was hearing a plea of Congress leader and social activist Jaya Thakur seeking directions to the Centre and the 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.

The framing of the national policy on the issue is at an advanced stage and two more months' time may be granted, the ASG said.

"We will keep this matter on the first Monday of September month," the bench said.

The plea highlighted the difficulties faced by adolescent females from poor backgrounds in the schools.

The Centre had earlier said that it was 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.

The top court had 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 an earlier hearing, the Centre had 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.

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 the states and UTs, and collect relevant data for formulating a national policy.

It noted that the 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 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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Published 08 July 2024, 13:19 IST

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