Discrimination is "the act of distinguishing and treating someone or a group differently (most often worse) from the rest of the community or from another person. Today, in France, periods are - for most people - no longer a taboo subject. But this is not true everywhere and there is still discrimination against menstruating people.
How does this discrimination manifest itself?
In many parts of the world, access to sanitary protection, or simply to safe toilets and clean water for example, is very complicated for women. Sanitary protection may not be accessible to some women due to financial constraints, but also due to cultural and religious norms in some countries.
In 2015, UNICEF stated that one in 10 girls did not go to school during their menstrual period. Yet it is fundamental that governments take notice of this problem of access to sanitary protection. Indeed, it is essential that women, and even more so that young girls, be able to manage their cycles as well as possible in order to be able to continue learning, to limit the school dropout rate in these countries, and thus to be freer. Moreover, the difficulty of access to appropriate sanitary protection reinforces the risks of infection and disease for women who are forced to use pieces of cloth, rags or even leaves during their periods.
Beyond the fact that some women have no access to sanitary protection, there are still inconsistencies and inequalities in access to menstrual protection, even in so-called "developed" countries. For example, we note that the tax rate for sanitary protection is the same or even higher than for non-essential products. This sends the message that sanitary protection is superfluous.
Discrimination also reflects the taboo that persists around menstruation. In some countries, menstruation is still seen as something dirty and shameful. For example, in some rural areas of Nepal, when women menstruate, they are forced to isolate themselves, to live separated from men, because it is "a women's matter" that does not concern them. In addition to isolation, there are many restrictions on women during their cycles, such as not being allowed to touch food or enter sacred places.
In addition to humiliating women and reinforcing the taboo around menstruation, this phenomenon of isolation reinforces the rate of illiteracy among young girls who are therefore forced to miss about a week of classes per month.
Another discrimination that can occur is the infringement of fundamental rights. Indeed, in some countries and due to certain cultural and religious norms that persist, young women when they have their periods are subjected to sexual violence or are married by force. Indeed, menarche (i.e. the beginning of menstruation) is perceived in some countries as a sign that women are ready to be married or to be sexually active. They are therefore vulnerable to abuse.
Some women may resort to paid sex in order to afford sanitary protection.
On the same subject : Being a woman in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime.
How to fight against discrimination?
For many years, human rights organizations have tried to alert on the need to take the subject of periods and discrimination seriously and provide solutions, publishing reports. For example, in 2017, Human Rights Watch and WASH United published a guide for women's and girls' rights groups, with the goal of helping these groups address menstrual hygiene issues at the human rights level.
UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) distributes sanitary pads to women living in humanitarian crisis areas.
On a more local scale, many associations (such as Règles Élémentaires in France for example) for the protection of human rights, and feminist associations demand that menstrual sanitary protections be free, or at least that they not be taxed.
Menstruation is a totally natural phenomenon, which should in no way be a source of discrimination. Fortunately, more and more voices are being raised to denounce these discriminations, but there is still a long way to go before all discriminations linked to menstruation disappear.
Elia is committed to this approach in order to promote the accessibility of sanitary protection for all women. This is why we donate 10% of the profits of our menstrual panties to associations fighting against menstrual precariousness.