A Kenyan politician, Gloria Orwoba, was asked to leave parliament halfway through the session after her colleagues accused her of violating the house’s “dress code.”
Senator Orwoba, who has been campaigning for free sanitary towel provision in Kenya, had walked into the parliament with her blood stained white trousers. “Since I am always advocating against period shame, I thought I should go ahead and walk the talk”, she told BBC.
This did not sit well with her colleagues, including women as they saw her actions as “disrespectful.” During the plenary session on February 14, Senator Tabitha Mutinda requested that the speaker eject Sen Orwoba for not following the dress code.
“You don’t understand if she’s on the normal woman cycle or she’s faking it, and it is so indecent,” said Sen Mutinda according to BBC report. Sen Mutinda said Sen Orwoba was setting a bad example for young women and girls.
Orwoba said it was “an accident that is natural… I have stained my clothes.” She said “I think I’m dressed as per the standing orders – I’m covered, I have a suit, I have collars, I’m dressed in a white trouser suit.” Other Senators also spoke against Sen Orwoba’s actions.
Eventually, Senate Speaker Amason Kingi ruled that Sen Orwoba should leave the chamber. He said “having periods is never a crime. Sen Gloria, I sympathize with you that you are going through the natural act of menstruation, you have stained your wonderful suit, I’m asking you to leave so that you can change and come back with clothes that are not stained.”
Rather than go home to change, the senator spoke to the media and then visited a school in Nairobi, to distribute pads said BBC. Interestingly, report says the period stain was in fact fake, and was part of the Senator’s way of raising awareness to “period shaming.”
Gloria Orwoba has been campaigning end “period shame” and fight “period poverty” in Kenya. She has been advocating for an increase in government funding for sanitary pads and provision of menstrual related hygiene products in public schools.
In 2019, period shaming led a 14-year-old girl to commit suicide in Kenya. Her teacher had reportedly shamed her for staining her uniform, calling her “dirty”. Her mother reportedly told the media it was her first period and she didn’t have a sanitary towel.
Under the provision of the 2004, law of Kenya, all taxes on sanitary pads were canceled and in 2017, the government introduced a law to provide free pads to schoolgirls. Despite this law, school girls still have littles access to sanitary pads.
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