Menstrual Hygiene in Indian Prisons


06:15 AM

1 min read
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What’s in today’s article?

  • Background
  • What is the Meaning of Menstrual Hygiene?
  • Status of Menstrual Hygiene in Indian Prisons
  • Measures Taken by the Government
  • Way Ahead


  • India has made significant progress in menstrual hygiene management.
  • The National Family Health Survey (NFHS 2019-2020) shows that around 80% of young women aged 15-24 now use safe menstrual products.
  • However, while urban areas and certain groups have seen improvements, women in Indian prisons remain neglected.
  • In a society that often denies prisoners basic rights, female prisoners suffer more due to societal biases that refuse to accept women can commit crimes.
  • This has led to their basic needs, like menstrual hygiene, being overlooked.

What is the Meaning of Menstrual Hygiene?

  • Menstrual Health and Hygiene (MHH) is essential to the well-being and empowerment of women and adolescent girls. 
  • On any given day, more than 300 million women worldwide are menstruating
  • In total, an estimated 500 million lack access to menstrual products and adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene management (MHM).
  • To effectively manage their menstruation, girls and women require:
    • Access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities,
    • Affordable and appropriate menstrual hygiene materials,
    • Information on good practices, and
    • Supportive environment where they can manage menstruation without embarrassment or stigma.

Status of Menstrual Hygiene in Indian Prisons

  • There are 23,772 women in Indian prisons, with 77% in the reproductive age group and likely to menstruate regularly.
  • However, the availability and quality of sanitary napkins in prisons are inconsistent and often inadequate.
  • Despite the2016 Model Prison Manual's recommendations, many states haven't provided sufficient water and washroom facilities for female prisoners.
  • Overcrowding and poor conditions make it difficult for women to access essentials like water, sanitary napkins, detergent, and soap during menstruation.
  • A 2023 study conducted in a Maharashtra prison revealed that water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities are inadequate, forcing women to store water and share limited toilets.
    • This situation led to higher instances of urinary infections and difficulties in maintaining menstrual hygiene.
  • Prisons rely on NGOs for sanitary napkin donations, often resulting in substandard products.
  • In one case, only one pair of reusable napkins was provided per woman, which was impractical due to limited access to water and detergent.

Measures Taken by the Government

  • India has been working to improve menstrual hygiene access, particularly for young women, through initiatives like the Menstrual Hygiene Scheme, which distributes free or subsidized sanitary napkins.
  • Additionally, affordable Suraksha Suvidha Napkins are available at Jan Aushadhi Kendras for ₹1 each.
  • In 2023, India introduced the 'National Menstrual Hygiene Policy' to recognize menstruation as a natural process needing more attention, emphasizing equity in safe and dignified menstrual hygiene management for all, regardless of socioeconomic status or location.
    • The policy acknowledges prisoners as a group with limited access to menstrual hygiene.
    • However, it lacks a specific action plan to address this issue and does not involve the Ministry of Home Affairs, which is crucial for prison-related matters.

Way Ahead

  • The Indian government must ensure basic menstrual hygiene standards for women in prisons.
  • The inconsistent implementation of the Model Prison Manual 2016 across states needs immediate action, with every state required to follow its recommendations.
  • Addressing menstrual hygiene in prisons should be seen through a public health perspective as part of combating 'period poverty.'
  • Public health authorities and prison administrators should collaborate to develop a comprehensive strategy for providing adequate menstrual hygiene products and facilities, prioritizing the health and dignity of incarcerated women.

Additionally, there is a need for research to understand the current state of menstrual hygiene in prisons.

Q1. Is Prison under the Concurrent List?

'Prisons' is a State subject under the State List of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India.

Q2. What is the meaning of POSH policy?

The Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH) Act, officially known as the "Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013", is a law in India designed to protect women and all employees from sexual harassment at the workplace.

Source: Menstrual hygiene in Indian prisons | Explained