The issue of lack of awareness about menstruation among schoolgirls leading to drop-outs came under the scanner on Monday of the Delhi High Court, which asked the authorities to take steps to sensitise and educate students about the matter.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar also issued a notice to the Centre, asking if it had a menstrual hygiene scheme in place.
It said governments and civic bodies here must publicise awareness schemes and ensure their effective implementation in schools.
The court also sought to know the budgetary allocation under the schemes for schools in Delhi and the manner in which menstrual hygiene products for students were disbursed.
The court's direction came during the hearing of a plea by an advocate -- Setu Niket -- who sought direction to the Centre, the Delhi government and civic bodies to establish a mechanism to provide education on mensuration and menstrual hygiene in all schools here.
The petitioner through her counsel Esha Mazumdar told the court that according to a survey, the school drop-out rate for girls was the most during puberty.
It sought direction to the authorities to ensure that menstrual hygiene products were made available to adolescent girls in schools free of cost or at subsidised rates.
The petitioner has also sought the establishment of a mechanism to provide education to girls aged 11-14 years about menstrual hygiene and safeguards, and access to trained female teachers or health counsellors in schools on a weekly or monthly basis for imparting education on the issue.
"It cannot be denied as this essential," the bench said and asked the Delhi government, the New Delhi Municipal Council and the three MCDs here to inform it on whether they have implemented the menstrual hygiene scheme under the Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK).
The bench also asked the authorities to disclose in their affidavits about the manner in which they are undertaking educational programmes.
It sought to know the manner in which the schools are imparting education on the subject.
"They (Delhi government and the civic bodies) shall also give details of schools which do not have separate toilets for girls," the bench said.
The court has now listed the matter for further hearing on November 7.
Citing the Right to Education Act, which was enacted with the objective of providing free and compulsory education to every child in the 6-14 age group, the plea said adolescent girl students who come from poor backgrounds are generally not educated by their parents about menstrual hygiene.
"This lack of education increases the prevalence of unhygienic and unhealthy practices which increases abstinence and eventual dropping out from school," the plea said.
It further said it was imperative to sensitise children in the 10-14 age group about menstrual hygiene and every possible effort should be made by the State to help girls continue with their education.