KOCHI: In a bizarre incident, a company here allegedly ordered the strip-searching of 15 women to zero-in on the person who had not disposed of a used sanitary napkin properly inside a toilet.
The woman employees who protested against such humiliation were threatened with sacking by the glove-manufacturing company's authorities. The incident, which took place on December 10, has sparked a furore in the state, with a probe being ordered and the high court set to hear the case on Friday.
One of the women subjected to the strip search told TOI on Tuesday that they have been constantly suffering indignities that are too embarrassing to reveal in public.
"In fact, on that day the woman supervisors asked all of us except those who didn't have uterus to come to toilet and subjected us to strip search. When we protested, they threatened to throw us out of the company. We complained to the manager but he took the side of the supervisors," the woman said, requesting anonymity.
Despite the company allegedly trying to settle matters, the women, aged 20-50, filed a police complaint on December 19. They said the incident had affected them mentally.
A four-member committee set up by the development commissioner of CSEZ and the women's police station, Ernakulam Town, are investigating the matter.
"We have given all details including CCTV footage from the company to both investigating teams. They have collected statements from employees as well as the management", said CYA Rahim, managing director of Asma.
According to him, a sanitary pad was found in the toilet on December 11 and not December 10, as mentioned in the women's complaint, but no strip search was conducted by the two women supervisors. "Of the 15 women employees who signed the petition, two of them were on leave on December 10. The employees who filed the petition are said to have had issues with the two supervisors", Rahim added.
Anger over the strip search has spilled over onto social media, with Facebook and Twitter users from Kerala on Tuesday calling for a 'Napkin Protest'.
Some of them tweeted the postal address of the glove company. A user, @sosurie, posted, " Ridiculous if true: 45 women working in Asma Rubber Products Pvt Ltd, Kochi strip searched over a used sanitary napkin". Another user, @AnjaliGorg, said, "No Surprise. Women face worse experience in many Ladies Hostels of Kerala. Mostly convent hostels".