On Tuesday, February 14th, Kenyan Senator Gloria Orwoba was asked to leave parliament after members noticed a blood stain on her pants while in session. Members of parliament criticized her, claiming Orwoba was being “disrespectful” by wearing period stained pants. Comments were made by both male and female members of parliament.
While giving a comment to BBC, Orwoba said she was aware of the stain prior to entering the building, having noticed it on the way to parliament. She told the BBC that she was proud to “stand up against period shame. Orwoba said, “When I got off the car, a senate staff [member] 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.”
During parliament’s plenary session, Senator Tabitha Mutinda asked the Senate Speaker Amason Kingi about Orwobas appearance, questioning whether or not she had violated parliament’s dress code, and asked for a ruling to be made. Senator Mutinda, a fellow woman, said Orwoba’s appearance made her “uncomfortable” and was “inappropriate.” She then attacked Orwoba, saying there was no way to know if she had her period or if she was faking her cycle, before calling her indecent.
Senator Orwoba expressed that she was disappointed by the line of questioning over her appearance, and rebutted by saying she had “an accident that is natural…I have stained my clothes.”
Orwoba continued to defend her stance on whether or not she had violated the house dress code to the senate saying, “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.”
Orwoba, who in particular has fought against period shame, said her experience in the senate helped her to understand the beratement that girls across kenya face when on their periods. She said, “We have a girl who killed herself because it is the women who are trying to make this a crime,” notably pointing out that the accusations were made by fellow women of the senate.
Men of the senate also complained about her appearance, with Senator Enoch Wambua saying, “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 Senator 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.”
After Senator Wambua, Senator Orwoba, and Senator Mutinda finished their comments, Senate Speaker Kingi made his ruling saying, “Having periods is never a crime. Senator 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 go change and come back with clothes that are not stained.”
Senator Orwoba did not go home and change her clothes after being dismissed from the senate session, but instead spoke to press and media outside the senate building about the discourse that had just occurred. She then went to a school in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, and handed out sanitary pads.