Menstrual Hygiene—A Human Rights Issue

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

The link between the rights of women and girls and menstrual hygiene management is clear and important, but underappreciated and underreported. In response, on May 28, 2014, a coalition of nongovernmental organizations launched Menstrual Hygiene Day, to raise global awareness about a fundamental health concern that women often keep to themselves. As Amanda Klasing reports for Women’s eNews, “Purchasing materials and accessing clean facilities to safely and hygienically manage menstruation should not be a luxury, yet in many places around the world it is.” In Haiti, Kenya, Bangladesh and elsewhere, many women and girls have “no option but to use dirty, unsafe materials to absorb the blood.” In rural India, many women resort to using dried leaves, grass, ash, or newspapers as alternatives to expensive, unobtainable hygienic products.

The lack of adequate sanitation materials and facilities is a human rights concern. For instance, girls’ right to education can be severely altered when they have to miss school due to inadequate school bathrooms, or when money is not available to purchase sanitary supplies. A study in Uganda found that girls missed up to five days a month due to the lack of supplies and sanitation at their schools.

Menstrual hygiene managements also impacts women’s economic opportunities. Klasing cites a study in Bangladesh by HERProject that found 73 percent of interviewed female Bangladeshi garment workers said they missed an average of six days of work—and therefore pay—per month due to vaginal infections, often caused by unsanitary menstrual materials.

Although some corporate media sources have covered the topic of menstrual hygiene and the importance of public awareness about this fundamental health issue, this coverage typically fails to frame the issue in terms of human rights. (See, for example, recent coverage in the Huffington Post.) As Klasing writes, however, “menstrual management matters to human rights, health, safety and dignity.”

Source: Amanda Klasing, “Menstrual Day Links Periods and Human Rights,” Women’s eNews, May 28, 2014, http://womensenews.org/story/reproductive-health/140527/menstrual-hygiene-day-links-periods-and-human-rights.

Student Researcher: Brittany Caffo-Delgado (Sonoma State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Sandra Garcia (Assistant Principal, Harvest Middle School, Napa, CA)