Want condoms too?: Bihar women's panel chief to schoolgirls' query
The chairperson-cum-managing director (MD) of the Women Development Corporation (WDC) of Bihar, Harjot Kaur Bamhrah is facing public ire following her rather insensitive remarks at a workshop for girls in Patna on Tuesday. When a few schoolgirls asked Bamhrah why the government couldn't provide them with sanitary pads, she snubbed them saying tomorrow they would start demanding jeans, shoes, and then condoms.
Why does this story matter?
- Menstruation remains a stigmatized topic in our society. Among over 35 crore menstruating women, only 36% use basic menstrual hygiene, which is a sanitary napkin, according to a 2020 report by BBC.
- Lack of access to menstrual hygiene, also called period poverty, forces around 23% of schoolgirls to drop out of school every year while being treated as "untouchables" and forced into early marriage.
NCW issues show cause notice
The National Commission for Women (NCW) took cognizance of the matter and issued a show cause notice to Bamhrah, seeking a reply within seven days. The workshop Sashakt Beti, Samriddh Bihar (Empowered Daughters, Prosperous Bihar) was jointly conducted by UNICEF and the Bihar government. Bamhrah is an IAS officer of the 1992 batch while the WDC falls under the state government's Social Welfare Department.
Watch the rather strange interaction here
क्या सरकार 20-30 रुपए का सैनिटरी पैड नहीं दे सकती?— Utkarsh Singh (@UtkarshSingh_) September 28, 2022
जवाब- इस माँग का कोई अंत है? कल को जींस पैंट भी दे सकते हैं. परसों सुंदर जूते भी दे सकते हैं. अंत में निरोध भी मुफ़्त में ही देना पड़ेगा. ये बेवकूफी की इंतहा है. पाकिस्तान चली जाओ.
बिहार महिला एवं बाल विकास निगम की MD को सुनिए. pic.twitter.com/lVMGiK7L9D
"Do you have separate toilets at home?"
When another student raised the issue of broken toilets and discomfort regarding sharing the toilet with boys, Bamhrah retorted by asking if they had separate toilets at home. She said, "If you keep asking for a lot of things at all places, how will things work?" The workshop included girls mostly from Class 9 and 10.
"Don't vote, become Pakistan"
Replying to the schoolgirl's question on sanitary pads, Bamhrah said that they shouldn't look up to the government for "everything" but rather earn for themselves as they were grownups. The girl argued that the government was bound to provide for them as politicians come to them seeking votes. To this, Bamhrah sarcastically said that they shouldn't vote and turn into Pakistan.
Controversy an attempt to malign me: Bamhrah
Bamhrah called the controversy an attempt to malign her image, reported NDTV. Claiming herself to be a vocal defender of women's rights, she said some mischievous elements were trying to get back at her after action was taken against them by WDC for wrongdoings. She threatened to sue Dainik Bhaskar, which first reported the incident, and asked Press Council of India to take action.
On paper, government does provide free sanitary pads, condoms
In juxtaposition to the IAS officer's statements, under the National Health Mission's Menstrual Hygiene Scheme, the Centre in collaboration with the state governments provides sanitary napkins at subsidized rates, while in some states it is completely free. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare's family planning scheme, the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) also distributes free condoms.