Women Deliver: If it’s not Sexy It’s not a Right

Posted on | May 29, 2013 by Lisa Correnti |

A side event at the Women Deliver conference last night featured an expert panel that reported on the serious discrimination and psychological harm millions of girls in developing countries experience due to the taboo subject of menstruation.

Cultural taboos surrounding menstruation alienates girls from their families and homes due to beliefs that girls and women are unclean during this time of month. In some regions girls and women are forced to sleep outside their homes, cannot use the family water tap and are at risk to violence as they travel to distant alternate water sources.

Limited hygiene products, lack of water sources and poor sanitation leads to regular absenteeism from school and work, with some adolescents leaving school permanently.

A teenage girl from Bangladesh who attended the event, gave a firsthand account of the challenges young girls face when they are menstruating. Some Bangladesh girls are so desperate to acquire hygiene supplies that they have been known to trade sex for clean cloths, she reported.

The Women Deliver conference held in Malaysia brings in sexual and reproductive rights stakeholders from around the world that are narrowly focused on expanding access to modern contraceptives including abortion to all girls and women in developing countries. With hundreds of meetings over a 3-day event only three visited menstruation hygiene.

Frustration was voiced by one of the panelists from WaterAid that has been pushing the issue for some years. “Menstrual hygiene is a core sexual and reproductive right” and “it is a core women’s right”  – ” yet here we are in a 7:30pm time slot,” she added.

Raising awareness on this critical issue has mainly been left to clean water advocates to champion. These advocates are calling for the silence on this issue to end.

Reproductive rights gatekeepers largely ignore this issue which perpetuates the shame and unsafe practices that occur as millions of girls hide in the shadows when they are menstruating.

Please visit the resources below to learn more about this important issue and how you can help.

Wash Advocates






Turtle Bay and Beyond is a blog covering international law, policy and institutions. Our experts - at the UN, European Institutions, and elsewhere - explore an authentic understanding of international law, sovereignty, and the dignity of the human person. We expose those who would seek to impose a radical social vision that is contrary to these principles.


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