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Neglect of Menstrual Hygiene for Female Prisoners in India

Context:

Despite significant progress in menstrual hygiene management, with around 80% of young women aged 15-24 using safe menstrual products according to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS 2019-2020), women in Indian prisons remain neglected. Improvements have been seen in urban areas and among certain groups, but societal biases against female prisoners, who are often denied basic rights, exacerbate their suffering. This neglect leads to the overlooking of fundamental needs, such as menstrual hygiene, for incarcerated women.

Relevance:

GS II: Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Understanding Menstrual Hygiene
  2. Menstrual Hygiene in Indian Prisons
  3. Government Efforts to Enhance Menstrual Hygiene
  4. Future Directions

Understanding Menstrual Hygiene

Definition and Importance:

  • Menstrual Health and Hygiene (MHH) is crucial for the well-being and empowerment of women and adolescent girls.
  • On any given day, more than 300 million women worldwide are menstruating.
  • Approximately 500 million women lack access to menstrual products and adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene management (MHM).

Requirements for Effective Menstrual Management:

  • Access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) facilities.
  • Affordable and suitable menstrual hygiene materials.
  • Information on good practices.
  • A supportive environment to manage menstruation without embarrassment or stigma.

Menstrual Hygiene in Indian Prisons

Current Status:

  • There are 23,772 women in Indian prisons, with 77% in the reproductive age group and likely to menstruate regularly.
  • The availability and quality of sanitary napkins in prisons are inconsistent and often inadequate.

Challenges Faced:

  • Despite the 2016 Model Prison Manual’s recommendations, many states have not provided sufficient water and washroom facilities for female prisoners.
  • Overcrowding and poor conditions hinder access to essentials like water, sanitary napkins, detergent, and soap during menstruation.
  • A 2023 study in a Maharashtra prison revealed inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities, forcing women to store water and share limited toilets, leading to higher instances of urinary infections and difficulties in maintaining menstrual hygiene.
  • Prisons often rely on NGOs for sanitary napkin donations, which can result in substandard products. In one instance, only one pair of reusable napkins was provided per woman, which was impractical due to limited access to water and detergent.

Government Efforts to Enhance Menstrual Hygiene

Implemented Initiatives:

  • India has been actively working to improve menstrual hygiene accessibility, particularly for young women, through programs like the Menstrual Hygiene Scheme, which offers free or subsidized sanitary napkins.
  • Low-cost Suraksha Suvidha Napkins are available at Jan Aushadhi Kendras for ₹1 each.
  • In 2023, the government introduced the National Menstrual Hygiene Policy, which recognizes menstruation as a natural process needing more attention and promotes equity in safe and dignified menstrual hygiene management for everyone, regardless of their socioeconomic status or location.
  • The policy acknowledges that prisoners face limited access to menstrual hygiene.
  • However, it lacks a concrete action plan to tackle this issue and does not involve the Ministry of Home Affairs, which is essential for matters related to prisons.

Future Directions

Steps Forward:

  • The Indian government must ensure that basic menstrual hygiene standards are met for women in prisons.
  • The uneven implementation of the Model Prison Manual 2016 across states requires urgent action, with all states needing to follow its guidelines.
  • Addressing menstrual hygiene in prisons should be approached as a public health issue, integral to the fight against ‘period poverty.’
  • Collaboration between public health authorities and prison administrators is necessary to develop a comprehensive strategy for providing adequate menstrual hygiene products and facilities, ensuring the health and dignity of incarcerated women.
  • Additionally, research is needed to understand the current state of menstrual hygiene in prisons better.

-Source: The Hindu


June 2024
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