Global Resources

A vicious cycle of silence: the implications of the menstrual hygiene taboo for the realisation of the human rights of women and girls

Author: R Boosey
Publisher: University of Sheffield
Publication Date: Sep 2013

Although menstruation is a natural process that forms part of the female reproductive system, it has been a taboo subject in cultures across the world for centuries. In the first half of this dissertation the author explores the implications of the menstruation taboo on the fulfilment of women and girls’ human rights, focusing on their rights to health, education, work and reproductive rights. In order to do so, she conducts a literature review and presents a case study based on field research that was carried out in spring 2013 into schoolgirls’ menstrual hygiene practices in a low income setting in Uganda. Findings reveal that the menstruation taboo can have detrimental effects on the fulfilment of women and girls’ human rights, particularly in low income settings.
In the second section of this dissertation, the author assesses the extent to which the menstruation taboo is addressed by international United Nations treaties and human rights bodies. Menstruation issues are hardly mentioned. The author then explores the implications of this silence by showing how it reflects the androcentric nature of the United Nations human rights system, forms part of a broader cyclical process of (re)producing the menstruation taboo, and has political consequences because as long as silence prevails, action to address women and girls’ menstrual needs so that they are not held back by their menstrual flow will be limited.
Summary adapted from source.