Maharashtra’s Eknath Shinde government has proposed to make it mandatory for all workplaces and educational institutions to have a separate ‘ladies room’ for pregnant and lactating women.
Last week, the state’s urban development department issued a draft notification and invited suggestions and objections from stakeholders about setting up such ‘ladies rooms’. The government has decided to call these ‘Hirkani’ rooms – after a milkmaid who lived near the Raigad fort during the reign of 17th century Maratha warrior king Shivaji.
“Many such workplaces have a large number of working mothers with newborns or really young children, but have no dedicated space to rest, breastfeed or express breast milk. The state government thought it was important to change regulation and make it mandatory for all such establishments to have a special room for such women,” an official from the state urban development department said.
According to the draft notification, it will be mandatory to provide the service of a ‘ladies room’ in all buildings used for industrial, public, semi-public, institutional, educational and any other similar purpose. All pregnant and lactating women as well as mothers with children under the age of six will be allowed to use this space.
As the legend of Hirkani goes, the gates of Raigad fort had been locked for the day, and the milkmaid had to reach her baby. So she scaled the steep walls of the fort in the dark.