Need for Effective and Inclusive Menstrual Hygiene Management Policy in the NCT of Delhi

Information about the Issue

Poor menstrual hygiene rooted in persisting taboos and stigma, restricted access to hygienic menstrual products and penurious sanitation infrastructure undermines the educational opportunities, health and the overall social status of women and girls. This is when WASH (Water, Sanitation & Hygiene) facilities for women remain poor, making the basic right of effective Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) still a distant reality in India. 

While we acknowledge the fact that the Delhi Government is working towards fulfilling the vision of Affordable & Quality Healthcare for women’s hygiene, due to almost negligible information dissemination of the relevant scheme(s), a majority of the potential beneficiaries remain unaware of the same, especially in underprivileged areas, viz., urban villages and slums in the city.

What are we doing to help resolve the aforementioned issues in Delhi?

While we have been advocating for the Right to Menstrual Health (at the National Level), we are now taking up this issue in Delhi separately, owing to the factors mentioned above.

We have written to the Office of the Chief Minister of Delhi, Department of Women and Child Development, Govt. of NCT of Delhi, the National Commission for Women, and the Delhi Commission for Women, to bring to their attention the lack of constructive community dialogues and awareness in relation to the Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) policy of the Delhi government. 

Concerns and Recommendations Highlighted by Us

  • Official menstrual hygiene management policy documents, specific to Delhi, be uploaded on the Delhi Government Website

While the present Government in Delhi has been working on varied schemes for affordable Menstrual Health Management for Girls and Women, no official notifications or policy documents can be found on the Delhi Government’s website in this regard. As mentioned in the Guidelines for Indian Government Websites  by The Government of India’s National Informatics Center, it is mandatory for government websites to have a clear-cut, content archival policy online so that the policy papers can be referred to easily for academic, research or general purposes. The Delhi Government’s Official Website is clearly in breach of the aforementioned guideline. We have thus requested the concerned officials that the official policy documents pertaining to menstrual hygiene management, be made accessible online, for public awareness, transparency and research purposes.

  • Expanding the reach of menstrual health policies across all age-groups

Majority of women use homemade products to manage their menstruation as cultural practices, hygiene routines, and community attitudes related to menstruation limit the use of existing toilets, with disposal of menstrual waste largely left unaddressed. The lack of adequate knowledge and information about menstruation manifests in the use of unhygienic absorbent materials, and thus there is a need for the local bodies to reach out to the vulnerable and backward communities, and design interventions like sensitisation drives to provide menstrual health literacy and increase awareness about the risks of poor menstrual practices. There lies a need to advocate such information to the strata of the society that is not well versed with technology. As established in the Supreme Court Judgement- Indian Young Lawyers Association & Ors. vs The State of Kerala & Ors. passed on 28th September 2018, menstruation is attached with taboos and thus policy intervention by the government is required to mitigate the persistent anathema in the society.

Current efforts by the Delhi Government to improve sanitation do not prioritize MHM. While schemes like UDAAN were initiated, they were limited to the school-going adolescent strata, leaving the majority of the vulnerable population (homeless, immigrants, economically weaker class) out of the welfare cover. Critical steps towards a collaborative and integrated approach to MHM, with well defined accountability, and strategies for implementing the guidelines at the State level are required to leverage the momentum to improve MHM in Delhi.

  • Expanding the reach of menstrual health management policies on an urgent basis to minimize the negative effects of COVID-19 pandemic on the health of vulnerable women communities

A survey research by the Menstrual Health Alliance of India (April 2020) established that the pandemic has revealed increased challenges for girls and women in India to access period products. In this regard, as per the UNICEF Brief- Mitigating the impacts of COVID-19 and menstrual health and hygiene, COVID-19 relief response must be gender sensitive, to minimise the disruptions in menstrual health management practices in the vulnerable communities. In tandem to the brief, it is suggested that the Delhi government:

  1. Ensure MHH supplies and WASH facilities are in place for healthcare workers and patients
  2. Mitigate the impact of lack of access to menstrual materials and WASH facilities by providing menstrual materials for girls and women with limited movement or in relief/recovery camps or institutions
  3. Provide basic WASH facilities and services in communities, camps, and institutional settings
  4. The need of the hour is that the local governments extend MHM policies on a priority basis, to ensure health and well-being of the vulnerable women-folk.
  • Provisions to realise menstrual hygiene in accordance with SDGs

Though menstrual hygiene is not explicitly mentioned in any of the sustainable development goals adopted by the United Nations, it has broader implications on all women’s lives and thus directly contributes to the success of various Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), namely: 

1) SDG 3- Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all;

2) SDG5- Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls;

3) SDG 6- Ensure availability and sustainable management of sanitation for all;

4) SDG 8- Decent Work & Economic Growth.

The above SDGs envisage an interdependent transformative approach to global development and embedded within them is the concept of social justice and dignity. Improved Menstrual Hygiene will, for example, result in less girls dropping out of school, which in turn will contribute to a reduction in early and forced marriage. As menstruation is intrinsically related to human dignity, by providing separate toilet facilities, leaves to maintain hygiene during periods, and enhanced awareness about MHM, we envision that the government can help uphold the dignity of women in the workforce. 

The provisions suggested herewith, will allow women to reach their full potential, and remove the hindrances to their economic participation. We have thus urged the government to tailor services and spaces essential to meet the rights articulated in the SDGs and address the persistent MHM needs of women residing in the State of Delhi.

What can you do to further this cause?

  • You can share our Social Media Updates regarding this issue, to help increase the outreach of this campaign.
  • In case you are a resident of Delhi, and wish to write to the Government exercising your right to information on connected issues, write to us.
  • You can even volunteer to support this campaign, as per your skillset.
  • If you are an organisation working in this domain, and would like to collaborate to take up this or the connecting issues forward, write to us.

Important Documents

  1. Letter to stakeholders by LQF dated 2nd November, 2020
  2. Guidelines to Indian Government Websites Compliance and Certification Handbook