Gloria Orwoba: Kenyan senator asked to leave over ‘period stain’
By Eunice Gatonye | BBC News |
A female Kenyan senator who was asked to leave parliament because of an apparent blood stain on her trousers has told the BBC she was proud to stand up against “period shame.”
Gloria Orwoba said she had noticed the stain before entering the building.
“Since I am always advocating against period shame, I thought I should go ahead and walk the talk,” she said.
Some MPs, including another female senator, criticised her, saying she was being disrespectful.
During Tuesday’s plenary session, Sen Tabitha Mutinda asked the speaker to rule on whether Ms Orwoba had adhered to the house’s dress code, saying she found it uncomfortable and inappropriate.
“You don’t understand if she’s on the normal woman cycle or she’s faking it, and it is so indecent,” said Ms Mutinda. She added there was a better way to raise this issue and this was not setting a good example to young women and girls.
Ms Orowba responded by saying she was disappointed to be questioned over “an accident that is natural… I have stained my clothes”.
“I think I’m dressed as per the standing orders – I’m covered, I have a suit, I have collars, I’m just short of a tie,” she told the senate, dressed in a white trouser suit.
Ms Orowba said her experience had made her understand the discrimination faced by some girls in Kenya when they are on their period.
“We have a girl who killed herself because of the same issue that I’m going through, and now I understand because it is the women who are trying to make this a crime.”
A male senator also criticised her.
“We have wives and daughters, and they go through these cycles, but it’s a matter to be managed personally without exposing it to other people. What Sen Gloria has done to this house is a disgrace, it is a lot of shame to this house. This must not be allowed to happen,” said Sen Enoch Wambua.
Ms Orowba said staff at the senate had tried to dissuade her from entering the chamber.
“When I got off the car, a senate staff ran towards me to cover me and begged me to go back inside the car. Since I am always advocating against period shame, I thought I should go ahead and walk the talk.”
Senate Speaker Amason Kingi ruled that Ms Orowba should leave the chamber.
“Having periods is never a crime,” he said. “Sen Gloria, I sympathise 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 go change and come back with clothes that are not stained.”
After leaving the senate building, Ms Orowba did not change her clothes. She spoke to the media and then visited a school in the capital, Nairobi, to distribute sanitary pads.
The senator is behind a motion pushing for an increase in government funding for free sanitary pads and provision of female hygiene products in all public schools. She said the funding would address “period poverty.”