In the past year alone, news reports have shown how menstrual injustice is linked to gender inequality, a lack of economic opportunity, poor health outcomes, and human rights violations. Here is a small sampling of the unjust treatment of women and other people who menstruate: locked bathrooms at schools, inadequate supply of free period products, harmful menstruation-avoidance options for athletes, the human and economic costs of the lack of menstruation and menopause employment leave policies, and the mistreatment of people imprisoned who menstruate.
To improve women’s equality, we need menstrual justice. Menstrual justice is the achievement of dignity, liberty and equality for people who menstruate, primarily cis women and girls but also transgender men and boys, genderqueer/nonbinary and intersex persons. On the other hand, menstrual injustice is the oppression of people who menstruate simply because they menstruate, and our society does not yet accept and accommodate menstruation as normal. Menstrual injustices can compound the marginalization of persons already subject to other injustices, including young students, low-income persons, persons with disability, Indigenous persons, persons who are imprisoned, and remote and low-wage workers.
We need laws that clearly outlaw workplace discrimination and harassment against menstruators, so no one is fired for bleeding on the job or being late to work due to period pain. We need public awareness campaigns and curricular expansion focused on health information and the eradication of menstrual stigma to curb poor menstrual health. We need access to resources and healthcare for residents in institutional settings that supports their autonomy over menstruation and menopause. We need provision of Indigenous intergenerational teaching about menstruation and menopause.
Governments have addressed some of these menstrual injustices. For example, all States and Territories provide free product access in schools. Victoria will be providing free product access in public places. Such initiatives are critical and helpful. But they are isolated and do not tackle important pieces of the equality puzzle.
The authors are a group of researchers, activists, and policy makers who have created this set of evidence-based recommendations for governments relating to menstruation and menopause. Our concrete recommendations, entitled “Menstrual Justice: A Human Rights Vision for Australia,” call upon Government to do more to fully address menstrual injustices. Our recommendations include the areas of public awareness, curriculum, schools, workplaces, public buildings and housing, institutional settings and discrimination and coercion. Many of these recommendations are no cost or low cost but could have a large impact on gender equality and would improve human rights for women and other people who menstruate.
Mike Armour, Dani Barrington, Helen Connolly, Beth Goldblatt, Elizabeth Hill, Danielle Howe, Margaret E. Johnson, Minnie King, Nina Lansbury, Meredith Nash, Linda Steele & Jane M. Ussher,
Menstrual Justice: A Human Rights Vision for Australia,
Available at: https://scholarworks.law.ubalt.edu/all_fac/1181