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States responsible for enforcing menstrual health schemes: centre

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New Delhi: The Centre told the Supreme Court that the responsibility of providing healthcare services lies with the respective state governments because public health is a state subject. The Health Ministry also claimed that it is dedicated to improving access to menstrual hygiene for young and adolescent girls.

In the affidavit filed before the top court, the ministry said it has undertaken awareness and training programmes and made necessary resources available. It was filed in response to a PIL by Congress leader Jaya Thakur seeking the issuance of directions for providing free sanitary pads to girls studying in classes 6 to 12 in government schools across the country.

"The Central government and its agencies are not the implementing bodies for schemes relating to menstrual health; and it is in fact the states and their agencies which are at the forefront of enforcement of the policies," said the Centre.

"Menstruation and menstrual practices are clouded by taboos and socio-cultural restrictions for women as well as adolescent girls in India which is combined with limited access to products of sanitary hygiene and lack of safe sanitary facilities. Moreover, traditionally, there have been practices of using old clothes as pads by recycling them, use of ash or straw, which not affect menstrual hygiene but also have long term implications for reproductive health," it added.

The ministry further said, "the government is dedicated to increasing awareness among adolescent girls on menstrual hygiene, building self-esteem, and empowering girls for better socialisation. The government is also working towards increasing access to and use of high-quality sanitary napkins for girls in rural areas."

The plea said that girls of the age group 11-18 face serious difficulties, especially those who come from poor backgrounds. "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 leads to the prevalence of unhygienic and unhealthy practices which has serious health consequences, increase obstinacy and leads to eventual dropping out from schools." She added that it is crucial that girls actualise their educational potential to achieve gender equality.

"The Government of India has deliberated for several years with regard to the inclusion of the right to education as a fundamental right. The Saikia Committee of 1997 had been appointed to examine the economic viability proposal as to whether the right to free elementary education up to 14 years of age could be made a fundamental right," added the plea.

"Prevalent myths about menstruation force millions of girls to drop out of school early or be ostracised for the duration of their menstrual cycle every month. They also affect the hiring of female workers, as it is felt that menstruation hampers their production capabilities. Unfortunately, it continues to be treated as a taboo in many societies, shrouded in a culture of silence and shame," the plea further said.

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TAGS:menstrual health schemes
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