Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Menstrual Health and Human Rights -- Yes, That's Right


Among the milestones of the past year was the first ever Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 28, 2014.  As a step toward bringing menstrual health out of the shadows, the global day was a great success, triggering blogsop eds and other acknowledgments of the role that the menstrual cycle plays in the lives of women and girls. As Gloria Steinem famously wrote in her spot-on Ms. Magazine essay, "If Men Could Menstruate" the social status of menstruation would be different -- and longer and more would be something to brag about!  But instead, menstruation is an obstacle to girls education and women's employment, and women everywhere understand that their dignity is undermined when menstruation is treated as shameful.  No wonder that Elena Kagan, now a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, made headlines -- and won fans among female law students -- when one of her first acts as the new Harvard Law School Dean was to acknowledge the reality of menstruating students by providing free tampons in the women's bathrooms.

Now, the Society for Menstrual  Cycle Research has announced a major conference, June 4-6, 2015, in Boston:  Menstrual Health and Reproductive Justice: Human Rights Across the Lifespan.  With human rights activist Loretta Ross as the keynote speaker, a menstrual poetry slam, and an art exhibit, as well as academic papers, the conference promises to be a lively antidote to the usual under-the radar treatment of menstrual issues.  Paper proposals for the conference are due January 16.  The SMCR website provides the following information about the conference:

Join us for a multidisciplinary and global conference to strengthen our research, activism, clinical service, artistic expression, and policy. We are working to achieve empowerment and social justice for women and girls everywhere by heightening menstrual health awareness, education, and services.

Menstrual health is central to women’s ability to lead lives of dignity and well being in every society and every part of the world. Without menstrual health other core rights remain in jeopardy. In fact, the UNDP and UNICEF have highlighted menstruation as “the single most important factor affecting school drop-out among girls” (2007), impeding the educational attainment that would facilitate social empowerment and financial independence around the globe. Yet, menstrual health is rarely respected, protected, or fulfilled as a human right, and has not been recognized or theorized as a reproductive justice issue.

“Stigma around menstruation and menstrual hygiene is a violation of several human rights, most importantly of the right to human dignity, but also of the right to non-discrimination, equality, bodily integrity, health, privacy, and the right to freedom from inhumane and degrading treatment from abuse and violence.”

Dr. Jyoti Sanghera, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

We are now accepting abstracts—of no more than 500 words—describing papers, posters, workshops, panels or creative presentations. Proposals addressing all aspects of the menstrual cycle (physiological, sociocultural, psychological, or cross-cultural)  from menarche to menopause are encouraged, including those that involve research, theory, public policy, health care, and clinical applications, art, and activism. The possibilities are endless. Suggested topics intersect menstrual health and politics at any stage of the lifespan.  Download the submission guidelines and forms here! Deadline is January 16, 2015.

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This is going to be a cutting edge conference! And I love the anecdote about Justice Kagan!

Posted by: Amy | Jan 15, 2015 9:18:46 AM

Thanks for the shout out about our upcoming conference. We promise a lively antidote indeed! Conference registrations are open to anyone..and the site will go live soon (check back at

Posted by: Chris Bobel | Jan 15, 2015 1:32:49 PM

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