Nearly 70 students said they were told to undress after a used sanitary napkin was found in a garden outside Sahjanand Girls Institute in Gujarat, where they are banned from the hostel when they have their periods.
Scores of women protested outside an Indian college, saying the institute's authorities forced them to strip to check if they were menstruating.
The students were told to undress after a used sanitary napkin was found in a garden outside Sahjanand Girls Institute, where they are banned from the hostel when they are on their periods.
"There are no words to describe the humiliation we faced," said one of the students protesting outside the college in Bhuj in the western state of Gujarat.
Critics said the strip search of sorts amounts to sexual assault but the college dean denied the accusation as it was done with consent.
Deep-rooted social taboos remain in India around menstruating women.
In some rural areas, women are made to sleep separately during periods. They are banned from entering some temples.
College authorities lined up 68 students in the washroom and ordered them to undress one by one, the students told reporters.
Girls humiliated in public for mensurating. Their panties checked by teachers at Shri Sahjanand Girl’s Institute in Bhuj. What a shame. This is a serious crime, assault on modesty. Must be treated as a sexual assault.— Tushar (@TusharG) February 14, 2020
The college is run by the conservative Hindu sect Swaminarayan. The sect runs lavish temples around the world, including in London.
Its rules bar students from staying in the hostel during their periods.
Menstruating women students must stay in an isolated basement area and keep away from the kitchen and the place of worship.
They also have to sit at the back of the classroom during lectures.
National Commission for Women: We have taken suo-moto cognisance in the matter and have set-up an inquiry team to visit and speak with the students at Shree Sahjanand Girls Institute in Bhuj, Gujarat. pic.twitter.com/jetDWmXGAj— ANI (@ANI) February 14, 2020
The college said it had set up an inquiry and indicated action could be taken against the staff behind the checks.
College trustee Pravin Pindoria said: "The girls were informed about the hostel rules before they took admission. I have called a meeting of the administrative committee which will take action against the responsible persons."