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21 Cardozo J.L. & Gender 1 (2014-2015)

handle is hein.journals/cardw21 and id is 1 raw text is: 













        TAKING THE BLOODY LINEN OUT OF THE
   CLOSET: MENSTRUAL HYGIENE AS A PRIORITY
           FOR ACHIEVING GENDER EQUALITY


                  INGA T. WINKLER AND VIRGINIA ROAF

      Regular menstruation signals a woman's health and fertility.       Yet,
menstruation is surrounded by shame, secrecy, embarrassment, fear, humiliation,
silence, taboo, and stigma. Linked to this taboo, many cultural and religious
norms-often grounded in patriarchal assumptions-seek to prevent contact with
menstruating women and girls in order to avoid 'contamination' or 'becoming
impure'. To some extent, this perception of menstruation is a paradox, given that
motherhood is glorified. However, menstruation is not perceived as feminine',
and it does not conform to the stereotypical role and behavior of women. Such
stereotypes require women to be beautiful and beautified, deodorized and fresh, not
bloody and smelly. Hence, women and girls are expected to hide menstruation and
go to great length to conceal it.
      Against this background, the Article explores challenges for menstrual
hygiene at the practical and policy level. It examines how menstrual hygiene is
situated in the human rights framework, in particular gender equality, how
menstrual hygiene can be defined in human rights terms and how using the
framework of human rights and substantive equality may contribute to giving
menstrual hygiene greater visibility  and prioritizing  the development of
appropriate strategies and solutions.
      The taboo and silence around menstruation makes menstruation a non-issue.
Despite making up half of the population, women's requirements are overlooked
and neglected, sometimes even deliberately ignored. This low priority and lack of
attention at all levels-from international policy-making to the private sphere-has
devastating impacts on women and girls' lives. It prevents women from reaching
their full potential and achieving gender equality. Women and girls lose days of

* Dr. Inga Winkler is a scholar in residence at the Center for Human Rights & Global Justice and Legal
Advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation.
Virginia Roaf is an independent consultant and Advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human
Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation. This paper reflects their personal opinion and not
necessarily that of the Special Rapporteur. The authors would like to thank Lucinda O'Hanlon, Marni
Sommer, Ina Jurga, and Archana Patkar for their valuable comments on an earlier draft of this article.
They would also like to thank Mona Niemeyer and Sarah Hartnett for their excellent research assistance
as well as Fareda Banda and Pamela White for helpful leads in research for this article. All errors and
omissions remain their own.

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