MADURAI: The corridor was busy that afternoon. The woman CISF personnel on duty on the Madurai High Court Bench campus was hesitantly looking for help.
After mustering courage, she approached another woman and asked, “Do you have a napkin?” A nod of affirmation from the stranger was a big relief for her.
The dispensary on the court campus, which happens to have regular tablets, ointments and other medications required for emergency, did not find it necessary to stock its shelves with sanitary napkins; this is despite hundreds of women working there as advocates, litigants, court staff, police and sanitary workers among others. The campus restrooms too did not have any napkin vending machine.
In July 2019, ‘Sunithi’ toilet — women-friendly restroom introduced by NGO WASH Institute — was inaugurated on the court campus.
This initiative was aimed at providing all facilities, including a sanitary napkin dispenser and incinerator; however, the toilet has been dysfunctional for a long while.
With no water supply, the toilet has turned out to be a disappointment; the space where the vending machine is supposed to be installed has, ironically, only a ‘how to use’ instruction notice pasted on the wall. The plight of yet another restroom in the campus for Class IV employees is no different.
“In case of emergency, we rush to the nearest chemist shop in Othakadai or Uthangudi for a sanitary pad. The dispensary staff on the campus have a standard response for napkin inquiry — ‘out of stock’ — throughout the year,” said advocate Seeni Syed Ammal.
Another advocate, who also had a similar experience with the dispensary staff, said, “Even if we bring napkins, there are often no bins to dispose them of in the toilets. So, we are left with no option but to discard it in the vicinity.”
The experience is much worse for litigants visiting the court from other districts as they may not know the location of medical shops in the area.
In a October 2017 suo motu, the Supreme Court passed an order to install three napkin vending machines and incinerators on its premises