While the Supreme Court is yet to give its decision on the issue of ban on the entry of menstruating women in Sabarimala, a group of students who are part of the "Happy to Bleed" campaign have filed an intervention application in the apex court asking why a natural and biological process like menstruation is being used to discriminate against women, all in the name of religion.
The students, who are being represented by senior lawyer Indira Jaising, in their application stated, "That the primary objective of this campaign is two pronged; one, demanding the State to fulfill its duty of ensuring that health requirements of women are met by means of provision of sanitary pads at subsidized rates and free of charge to economically weaker sectors and, two, fighting against menstrual discriminatory practices, specifically the practice of the Sabarimala temple, Kerala of denying entry to women and girls between 10-50 years into the temple which leads to stigma and shame based on gender, and violation of rights of women under Articles14 and 15 of the Constitution, not protected by Articles 25 or 26 of the Constitution."
A Special Bench hearing the Sabarimala issue will consider the intervention application.
Speaking to The News Minute, Nikita Azad, one of the applicants, said, "Just as discrimination on the basis of caste is prohibited, we want the criminalisation of menstrual discrimination."
The â€śHappy to Bleedâ€ť campaign was launched last year in November following Travancore Devaswom Board President Prayar Gopalakrishnan's statement that women will be permitted to Sabarimala after the invention of a machine which can scan and judge the purity of women.
Azad had written an article in Youth Ki Awaaz titled "AYoung Bleeding Womanâ€™ Pens An Open Letter To The Keepers Of SabrimalaTemple", which went viral. Along with her friends, Azad then started the campaign against menstrual taboos.
Their application, however, is not just about a single institution. "This is not just about Sabarimala. This could be extended to other religious, social or political institutions which have similar discriminatory practices," she says.
Just last week, the Supreme Court asked the Kerala government and the Travancore Devaswom Board, "Is spirituality solely within the domain of men? Are you saying that women are incapable of attaining spirituality within the domain of religion?"
"So, is this tradition of prohibition bound to stay on despite the fundamental right of equality envisaged in the Constitution? If discrimination is not there in the Vedas, the Upanishads, tell us when this kind of distinction really started in history?," The Hindu reported Justice Misra of the three-judge Bench as asking.
Azad says that their fight is not just against menstrual discrimination but also for the right to equality and health. "We did a survey and found that 90 percent women, especially those living in poor conditions, still use clothes during menstruation. There is a lot of shame attached to the issue. Women don't speak up even if they want hygienic options like sanitary napkins or tampons."