Menstrual Hygiene in Indian Prisons


  • Several issues have been found in access to sanitary products and safe and dignified means of managing menstrual hygiene among women in Indian prisons.


  • The fifth round of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS 2019-2020) revealed that about eight out of 10 young women aged 15-24 years are now using safe menstrual hygiene products.
  • While urban areas and certain demographics have seen improved usage of menstrual hygiene products, the plight of women in Indian prisons remains overlooked.

Status of Menstrual Hygiene in Prisons

  • According to the National Crime Records Bureau, there are 23,772 women in Indian prisons and 77% of them are in the reproductive age group (18-50 years) and are likely to be regular menstruators.
  • The availability of sanitary napkins has been inconsistent across different prisons in the country and the quality of sanitary napkins has also been unsatisfactory.
  • Despite recommendations outlined in the 2016 Model Prison Manual, many States have not implemented provisions like supplying adequate water and washroom facilities for female prisoners.
  • Overcrowding and poor socio-economic conditions further exacerbate the struggle of incarcerated women to secure necessities such as water, sanitary napkins, detergent, and soap during menstruation.

Challenges faced by women in Indian Prisons

  • The lack of a continuous water supply forced women to store water, taking up valuable space in the limited number of toilets available.
  • Women also reported feeling discouraged from using the filthy washrooms for urination, which led to a greater incidence of urinary infections.
  • Prison authorities depended on sanitary napkins donated by non-governmental organizations.
  • Decisions about the type, quality, and quantity of menstrual absorbents were left to these organizations, often resulting in the supply of substandard products.
  • There is a dearth of empirical evidence highlighting an urgent need to research to understand the current state of menstrual hygiene within prison walls.

Menstrual Hygiene and Health Schemes in India

  • Menstrual Hygiene Scheme: It was launched in 2011 for adolescent girls in the age group of 10-19 years and focussed on the distribution of low-cost sanitary napkins in communities through ASHAs.
  • Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: The Ministry of Jal Shakti and Education launched the National Guidelines on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) for rural areas.
  • The Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers implements the Pradhan Mantri Bharatiya Janausadhi Pariyojna (PMBJP), under which the Janaushidhi Kendras have been set up that provide Oxo-biodegradable sanitary napkins named Suvidha at Rs. 1/- per pad only.
  • National Menstrual Hygiene Policy to recognise menstruation as a natural process that demands more meaningful attention.
  • The draft policy states, Prioritize equity to enable all menstruating individuals, regardless of their socioeconomic status and geographical location, to have equal opportunities to access and manage their menstruation safely and hygienically.

Way Ahead

  • The experience of menstruation within prisons presents unique challenges that demand attention through a public health lens, particularly as part of the fight against ‘period poverty’.
  • The government must ensure that basic standards of menstrual hygiene for women in captivity are met.
  • The need is to encourage collaboration between public health authorities and prison administrators to develop a comprehensive strategy to ensure access to adequate menstrual hygiene products and facilities while prioritizing the health and dignity of women behind bars.