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Mallika Sarabhai, others protest 'sexual harassment' in Bhuj Swaminarayan institute

By Our Representative
Strongly protecting against the Shri Sahajanand Girls Institute, Bhuj, for its allegedly outrageous act of forcing young women hostelers to undress to check if they were menstruating, thereby violating the “religious norms” of the institute, the Gujarat Mahila Manch (GMM) has claimed, the incident "violates the basic rights of young women".
Insisting that the incident amounts to outraging "the modesty of young women, causing them mental trauma and amounts to sexual harassment", the GMM statement, signed by about 1,300 concerned citizens, mainly women activists, says, "Such incidents reinforce the redundant and unscientific idea of women being dirty while they menstruate."
Signed, among others, by prominent danseuse Mallika Sarabhai, academics Jharna Pathak, Meera Velayudhan and Neha Shah, and social activists Manjula Pradeep, Nirjhari Sinha, Nafisa Barot, Pankti Jog, Sejal Dand, Shabnam Hashmi and Nita Mahadev, the statement regrets, despite widescale outrage, the institute's trustee Pravin Pindoria has warned the students, “Take whatever legal action you wish to take, this will continue, and if you have any objection, you can leave the hostel”.
Pointing out that this suggests the trustees are supporting the act and are more concerned about upholding the outdated norms of the Swaminarayan sect, to which the institute belongs, the incident says, "Ironically, the institute proclaims its mission to be 'self-development and empowerment of girls through scientific and value-based education'."
According to the statement, at an educational institute where young women are under the custody of such a warden and principal who acted the way they did suggests the girls' safety is compromised.
Mallika Sarabhai
"The act violates the fundamental duties under article 51A of the Indian Constitution which want every citizen “to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities", even as renouncig practices "derogatory to the dignity of women”, GMM insists.
Wanting the incident to be nipped in the bud, the statement demands that, while FIR has been registered in the incident, and vice-chancellor Darshana Dholakia of the Krantiguru Shyamji Krishna Verma Kutch University has set up a fact-finding committee to investigate the matter, action should be taken against all those involved in the incident under Sections 354, 509 and 355 of the Indian Penal Code.
Seeking removal of the warden with immediate effect and action on all those who made statements justifying the act, the statement demands counseling sessions for the young women who have been "traumatized by the incident", adding, parents and young women should be given "an open environment to speak about the incident without any intimidation and the young women's demands be heard as part of the process."
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Click here for the names of 1,291 persons who endorsed the statement

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