GENEVA (5 March 2019) - UN human rights experts* call on the international community to break the taboo around menstrual health and take concrete action to ensure that discriminatory mindsets are changed, and women’s and girls’ menstrual health protected.
“Persistent harmful socio-cultural norms, stigma, misconceptions and taboos around menstruation, continue to lead to exclusion and discrimination of women and girls,” the experts said in a joint statement to mark International Women’s Day on 8 March.
“The stigma and shame generated by stereotypes around menstruation have severe impacts on all aspects of women’s and girls’ human rights, including their human rights to equality, health, housing, water, sanitation, education, work, freedom of religion or belief, safe and healthy working conditions, and to take part in cultural life and public life without discrimination,” said the experts.
“In some countries, menstruating women and girls are considered to be contaminated and impure, and restrictions are imposed on them, such as prohibitions from touching water or cooking, attending religious and cultural ceremonies or entering religious or cultural sites, or engaging in community activities. Menstruating girls can even be banished to outside sheds where they suffer in cold and isolation, often at risk of illness and animal attacks. When combined with the stigma and shame that women and girls are made to feel during that time, it is truly disempowering.”
Women and girls also encounter problems regarding lack of availability of sanitary hygiene products and gender sensitive facilities. Furthermore, lack of accommodation of women’s and girls’ menstruation related health needs in educational institutions and workplaces has an impact on school and job attendance, and thus on their economic advancement, undermining gender equality, added the experts.
While some countries have outlawed discriminatory practices linked to menstruation and developed policies to be responsive to women’s and girls’ needs during menstruation, around the world, the human rights concerns related to women’s menstrual cycle are still largely disregarded by policymakers.
“Much more has to be done to address the menstrual health needs of women and girls and to acknowledge that the failure to address them has a detrimental impact on all areas of women’s lives. Myths and misinformation need to be combated through comprehensive, non-judgmental, accurate and accessible information to improve menstrual literacy. States should take transformative measures, in cooperation with UN entities, CSOs, women’s organisations and the educational and business sector,” the experts said.
Read the full statement here.
*The UN experts: Ms. Ivana Radačić, Chair of the Working Group on discrimination against women in law and in practice, Ms. Karima Bennoune, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Mr. Dainius Pūras, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Ms. Koumbou Boly Barry, Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Mr. Léo Heller, Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, Ms. Dubravka Šimonovic, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its root causes and consequences and Mr. Surya Deva, Chair of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises
United Nations human rights experts represent the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures are a body of independent experts with mandates to conduct fact-finding, monitoring and reporting on country-specific or thematic human rights issues around the world. Learn more: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx
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