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Unhygienic and unclean toilets harm every girl child’s right to live with dignity: Bombay High Court

The Bombay High Court on 25th July 2022 ordered surprise inspections by District Legal Services Authority members to government-aided schools, stating that unclean and unhygienic toilets threaten every girl child’s right to live with dignity, through the division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice M. S. Karnik in the case of Nikita d/o Narayan Gore vs Union of India (Public Interest Litigation No. 107 of 2021).

 

FACTS OF THE CASE:

In the present case, the bench was referring to a letter sent by the Department of School Education to all education officers and schools stating that the problem of toilets must be addressed by each school’s Parent Teacher Association and that schools must clean the toilets.

The bench commented “to say the least, is upsetting” after reviewing images provided by the petitioner’s counsel illustrating the state of the washrooms and toilets.

The counsel representing the petitioner stated that the government has not taken adequate measures to promote menstrual hygiene. According to them, clean and separate toilets for females require 24-hour water supply in schools, vending machines filled with sanitary pads, and safe disposal of used pads. Nevertheless, they discovered that while vending machines were accessible in some schools, there were no sanitary pads in those machines; in others, there were neither vending machines nor decent bathroom facilities.

According to the petitioner, the insufficient water supply for washing or flushing, the poor hygienic conditions of toilets, washbasins, and unclean and dirty mugs for washing in the toilets are important concerns of concern. Because of a lack of suitable bins/disposal facilities, the petitioner noticed sanitary pads or other menstrual products being located in toilet corners or kept in windows.

Lastly, they argued that there was no concept of data monitoring for Menstrual Hygiene Management practises in schools. The rights of girl children under Articles 14, 15, 19, and 21 of the Indian Constitution would include not just the right to a basic necessity such as sanitary napkins, but also the availability of facilities that would allow such sanitary napkins to be used safely and hygienically.

Furthermore, the Government Pleader stated that the reality is not as bleak as the petitioner portrays it and that most schools have appropriate toilet and washroom facilities.

JUDGEMENT:

The division bench considered everything and stated that if the petitioner’s allegations were true, the court would have to direct the State to take a coordinated and comprehensive strategy to achieve the right of girl children to live in dignity. The bench stated that it wants to be completely satisfied with the existing state of things in terms of washroom and toilet facilities at government-aided schools, with a particular emphasis on rural areas. If it is found that the state of the washrooms and toilets is so horrible and unsanitary that it requires immediate care, the Secretaries may request that the appropriate authorities of the local bodies/schools take prompt action in this respect.

Accordingly, it ordered the DLSA to visit at least 15 such government-aided schools and report back to the court.

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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY NIDHI KUMAR

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