Ensuring separate toilets for adolescent girls in schools and providing sanitary napkins to them on a regular basis are not just instances of empowerment of girl child but also a step towards implementing right to education under Article 21A, the Karnataka High Court said on Thursday.
A Bench of Justices BV Nagarathna and JM Khazi said that right to free and compulsory education for children between age of 6 and 14 years is a fundamental right and would naturally include girls in that age group as well.
“Provision of separate toilets for adolescent girls in schools and provisions of sanitary napkins to such adolescent girls on regular basis are all instances not only empowerment of girl child but also a step-in implementation of Article 21A, in so far as girls between age of 6 to 14 years are concerned,” the Court said in its order.
The Court also remarked that providing separate toilets for girls and sanitary napkins to adolescent girls, are instances of empowerment.
“If you want to empower young women and young girls, provide these facilities,” the Bench observed during the hearing.
The Court was hearing a plea moved by the Anti-corruption Council of India in 2018 seeking strict implementation of the Shuchi Scheme.
The Shuchi scheme calls for distribution of sanitary napkins to adolescent girls, studying in schools and staying in hostels between the age group of 10 to 19 years. A total of 17,06,933 adolescent girls are beneficiaries of the scheme in the State.
However, during years 2019-20 and 20-21, procurement of sanitary napkins to be distributed to adolescent girls was not made on account of financial constraints.
Keeping this in mind, the Court ordered the State government to file a status report regarding the implementation of the scheme and to inform when the administrative approvals for procurement of sanitary napkins/pads, as proposed for the year 2021-22, would be secured.
The Bench further proceeded to applaud the State Government as it sought to extend Shuchi scheme for adolescent girls from 10 to 19 years as well.
The plea had also prayed for directions to the respondents to provide adequate infrastructure and facilities to students, teachers, and staff in government aided schools.
During the hearing on Thursday, the Court was informed of a survey report submitted by the Karnataka State Legal Services Authority (KSLSA) carried out in association with National Law School of India University (NLSIU) in 2019. The report stated that out of 889 schools in the State, 63 percent of schools had separate toilets for girls, out of which 82 percent are functional.
The Bench directed the KSLSA to make available the addresses of the 889 schools which were inspected so that the same could be considered and ascertained as to whether State government has taken steps to provide infrastructural facilities in those 889 schools, including the facilities of separate toilets for girls/boys, provision of electricity connection, kitchen facilities of midday meal, drinking water facility, etc.
The matter will be next heard on April 16.