Menstruation, myopia, and marginalization: Advancing menstrual policies to “keep girls in school” at the risk of exacerbating inequalities
As countries across the world adopt policies addressing menstruation, it is imperative to identify who benefits from such policies and to understand the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion. We examine such policies through the lens of human rights, as a framework that demands addressing marginalization, ensuring substantive equality, and guaranteeing inclusive participation to ensure that the menstrual needs of everyone, everywhere are met. Our review is focused on four countries (India, Kenya, Senegal, and the United States) and is based on data from 34 policy documents and interviews with 85 participants. We show that girls, particularly school-going girls, are the main target group of policies. Due to this myopic view of menstrual needs, policies risk leaving the needs of adult menstruators, including those experiencing (peri)menopause, unaddressed. Moreover, the intersection between menstrual status and markers of identity such as disability and gender identity produces further policy gaps. These gaps can be attributed to the exclusion of marginalized menstruators from decision-making processes by creating barriers and failing to ensure meaningful inclusive participation. To address inequalities, policy makers need to make a concerted effort to understand and accommodate the needs of menstruators in all their diversity.
Alhelou, Nay, Purvaja S. Kavattur, Mary M. Olson, Lillian Rountree, and Inga T. Winkler. 2022. "Menstruation, myopia, and marginalization: Advancing menstrual policies to keep girls in school at the risk of exacerbating inequalities," Health and Human Rights Journal, 20 October.