“Menstrual hygienic condition of women in Indian prison”

“Menstrual hygienic condition of women in Indian prison”

This article covers “Daily Current Affairs” and the topic details of “Menstrual hygienic condition of women in Indian prison”. This topic is relevant in the “Social issues” section of the UPSC- CSE Exam.

Why in the news?

The dire situation faced by one of the most marginalised groups—women incarcerated in Indian prisons—continues to be disregarded. In a societal framework where prisoners are stripped of their fundamental rights, female inmates endure heightened injustices. Society upholds an unattainable notion of female purity, denying the reality that women are capable of transgressions. This prejudicial stance has resulted in a systematic failure to address and provide for the necessities of female prisoners, including menstrual hygiene. 

Status of menstrual hygiene in prisons:

  • As per data from the National Crime Records Bureau, there are currently 23,772 women incarcerated in Indian prisons, with 77% falling within the reproductive age bracket of 18-50 years, likely necessitating regular access to menstrual products. 
  • However, the provision of sanitary napkins has been inconsistent across various prison facilities nationwide, with notable discrepancies in quality. 
  • Despite the  Model Prison Manual’s(2016) recommendations, several states have yet to enforce vital provisions such as ensuring adequate water supply and restroom facilities for female detainees. 
  • The issue is compounded by overcrowding and unfavourable socio-economic circumstances, intensifying the struggle for incarcerated women to obtain essential items like water, sanitary napkins, detergent, and soap during menstruation.
  • A study conducted in June 2023 by one of the authors at a prison in Maharashtra underscored the inadequacies in water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities for female inmates.
  • This shortfall presents significant hurdles for women, particularly during menstruation when increased water consumption is crucial for maintaining personal hygiene. 
  • The intermittent water supply forces women to store water, occupying valuable space in the limited number of toilets available. 
  • With approximately 50 women having to share just two toilets for all their daily activities, including personal hygiene, changing napkins, and washing clothes and utensils, the situation is dire. Moreover, the unsanitary conditions deter women from using the facilities frequently, contributing to a higher incidence of urinary tract infections.
  • Furthermore, the study revealed that prison authorities relied on donated sanitary napkins from non-governmental organisations, relinquishing control over the type, quality, and quantity of menstrual absorbents.
  • This dependence often results in the provision of substandard products, exacerbating the already challenging circumstances faced by incarcerated women.

Policy Intervention:

  • India has been actively endeavouring to enhance access to menstrual hygiene products, particularly among young women, through initiatives like the Menstrual Hygiene Scheme, which involves the distribution of free or subsidised sanitary napkins.
  •  In a significant move in 2023, India took a crucial step forward by introducing the ‘National Menstrual Hygiene Policy,’ recognising menstruation as a natural process deserving of more comprehensive attention. 
  • Central to this policy is the imperative of ensuring equity in the dignified and safe management of menstrual hygiene. The draft policy emphasises the importance of prioritising equity to ensure that all menstruating individuals, irrespective of their socio-economic status or geographical location, have equal opportunities to manage and access  their menstruation in a hygienic and safe manner.
  • It also highlights the need to address disparities and barriers hindering certain groups from accessing necessary menstrual hygiene products, resources, and information.
  • Notably, the policy identifies prisoners as a target population facing challenges in accessing menstrual hygiene facilities, reflecting a positive stride forward.
  • However, it lacks a concrete plan to improve prison menstrual hygiene management. It overlooks the Ministry of Home Affairs as a crucial stakeholder influencing menstrual hygiene practices within correctional facilities.

Steps can be taken to  improve menstrual hygiene conditions in Indian prisons:

    • Ensure Adequate Water Supply and Hygiene Facilities: Ensure that each inmate has access to clean water and basic facilities to maintain good hygiene practices by providing warm water and soap for better hygiene practices.
    • Provision of Quality Sanitary Pads: Ensure that prison authorities provide quality and sufficient sanitary pads to women prisoners.  Provide sanitary pads free of cost to prisoners, recognising the importance of dignity and hygiene during menstruation.
    • Safe Disposal of Used Pads: Ensure that prison infrastructure is designed to facilitate the safe disposal of used sanitary pads. Provide regular prison visits by female doctors to ensure proper disposal and address any health concerns.
    • Awareness and Education: Conduct awareness camps and capacity-building sessions with prison staff to educate them about menstrual hygiene and the importance of maintaining good practices. Organise regular awareness camps for women prisoners to educate them about menstrual health, hygiene, and disposal methods.
    • Reproductive Health Support: Ensure that prison authorities provide reproductive health support to women prisoners, including access to medical care and counselling.
    • Setting Up of Menstrual Product Enterprises: Consider setting up menstrual product enterprises within prisons to provide a livelihood option for prisoners and promote menstrual hygiene.
    • Prison Infrastructure Upgrades: Upgrade prison infrastructure to ensure privacy and dignity for menstruating prisoners, including separate facilities for women and adequate dustbins for sanitary napkin disposal.
    • Training for Prison Staff: Provide training to prison staff on gender-specific needs and menstrual hygiene management to ensure that they are equipped to support women prisoners effectively.
    • Monitoring and Evaluation: Regularly evaluate and monitor the effectiveness of these measures to ensure that menstrual hygiene conditions continue to improve and that women prisoners receive the necessary support and care.

Government Initiatives:

  • Model Prison Manual 2016: This manual recommends that “sterilised sanitary pads should be issued to women prisoners as per their requirements.” However, the manual does not provide detailed guidelines on the provision of sanitary pads, water supply, and disposal facilities.
  • Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana: This scheme ensures that menstruating women have affordable sanitary napkins, but it does not specifically address menstrual hygiene management in prisons.
  • Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI): CHRI has conducted studies and awareness campaigns to highlight the need for proper prison menstrual hygiene management. They have also collaborated with organisations like Boondh to develop recommendations for menstrual health management in Indian prisons.
  • Prison Statistics India (PSI): The PSI reports provide data on the number of women prisoners and their demographics. These statistics highlight the need for targeted initiatives and policies to meet the needs of women prisoners.
  • Policy Recommendations: CHRI has developed policy recommendations for menstrual health management in Indian prisons, emphasising access to clean water, basic facilities, quality sanitary pads, proper disposal mechanisms, and regular medical visits. These recommendations aim to improve menstrual hygiene management and the overall health of women prisoners.


Download Yojna daily current affairs eng med 28th May 2024


Prelims based Question

Q. Consider the following two statements related to Menstrual hygiene:

  1. Every year, 28th May is celebrated as the Menstrual Hygiene Day.
  2. In India, Three days of paid menstrual leave for women is mandatory.

Which of the above statement/s is/are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2


Answer: A

Mains based Question

  1. Q. In India, the focus on Menstrual hygiene is limited to gender, ignoring the particular section, especially Dalit, rural and prisoner women. Comment.


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