Is there still discrimination linked to rules?

Existe-il encore des discriminations liées aux règles ?

Discrimination is the "act of distinguishing and treating someone or a group differently (usually worse) from the rest of the community or from another person". In France today, rules are - for most people - no longer a taboo subject. But this doesn't apply 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. Hygienic protection is sometimes unaffordable for some women from a financial point of view, but also because of cultural and religious norms in some countries.

In 2015, UNICEF reported that one in 10 girls did not attend school during their menstrual period. Yet it's vital that public authorities get to grips with the problem ofaccess to sanitary protection. Indeed, it is essential that women, and even more so young girls, are able to manage their cycles in the best possible way, so that they can continue to learn, to limit the school drop-out rate in these countries, and so that they are freer. What's more, the lack of access to suitable sanitary protection increases the risk of infection and disease for women, who are forced to use pieces of cloth, rags or even leaves during their periods.

In addition to the fact that some women have no access to sanitary protection at all, there are still inconsistencies and inequalities in access to menstrual protection, even in so-called "developed" countries. For example, the tax rate on sanitary protection is the same as, or even higher than, that on non-essential products. This sends out 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 and live apart from men, because it's "women's business" and doesn't concern them. In addition to isolation, there are numerous restrictions on women during their cycles: for example, they are forbidden to touch food or enter sacred places.

In addition to humiliating women and reinforcing the taboo that surrounds menstruation, this phenomenon of isolation reinforces the illiteracy rate among young girls, who are therefore forced to miss around a week of school every month.

Another form of discrimination is the infringement of fundamental rights. In fact, in some countries and due to certain cultural and religious norms that persist, young women who menstruate are subjected to sexual violence or forced marriage. Indeed, menarche (i.e. the onset of menstruation) is perceived in some countries as the sign that women are ready to be married or to be sexually active. They are therefore exposed to abuse.

Some women may resort to paid sex in order to pay for sanitary protection.

On the same subject: Being a woman in Afghanistan under the Taliban.

How to combat discrimination?

For many years, human rights organizations have been trying to alert people to the need to take the subject of rules and discrimination seriously and provide solutions, by publishing reports. For example, in 2017, Human Rights Watch and WASH United published a guide for groups specializing in women's and girls' rights, with the aim of helping these groups address menstrual hygiene issues at a human rights level.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) distributes sanitary pads to women living in areas of humanitarian crisis.

On a more local scale, many human rights and feminist associations (such as Règles Élémentaires in France, for example) are calling for menstrual sanitary protection to be free, or at least not taxed.

Menstruation is a totally natural phenomenon, which should never be a source of discrimination. Fortunately, more and more voices are being raised to denounce such discrimination, but there is still a long way to go before all discrimination linked to menstruation disappears.

Elia is committed to making sanitary protection accessible to all women. That's why we donate 10% of the profits from our menstrual panties to associations fighting menstrual insecurity.

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The information contained in the articles on is general information only. Although reviewed by health professionals, this information is not error-free, does not constitute health advice or consultation, and is not intended to provide a diagnosis or suggest a course of treatment. Under no circumstances may this information be used as a substitute for medical advice or consultation with a healthcare professional. If you have any questions, please consult your doctor.