Since we champion women’s health issues globally, we would like to share this breaking news recently published by the European Institute of Women’s Health (EIWH) concerning policies about menstruation in Europe.
EIWH has brought to light, in their most recent report, the prevalent menstrual taboo that still affects women in Western societies. Indeed, worldwide, the secrecy and shame which still surrounds menstruation adversely affect many women, both in the workplace and in their healthcare. When topics like heavy bleeding and pain cannot be mentioned, women miss out. They miss days at work, material covered in school, and could potentially fail to receive early diagnosis and treatment of a significant medical issue.
In the UK alone, 43% of women have missed work at least once due to heavy menstrual bleeding. What’s concerning is that they often feel uncomfortable visiting a doctor to have menstrual symptoms examined, leaving them with unanswered questions simply because they’re not comfortable enough to pose the questions.
The EIWH’s Plan to Eliminate Menstruation Taboo
The EIWH has formulated a landmark plan to turn this taboo around. Their view, and they are heartily advocating for this perspective to be adopted by the European mainstream population, is that menstruation is a normal part of a healthy woman’s life and should be treated as such. It should be comfortably discussed, accurate information should be readily available, and a healthcare-based atmosphere of asking questions must be cultivated.
In a nutshell, the EIWH policy outlines seven clear-cut steps to be taken:
1. Address the silence surrounding menstrual issues.
2. Support policies and programs across Europe, encouraging women to seek health care when necessary.
3. Empower both women and healthcare professionals to help prevent and detect women’s health issues in their early stages, and to support women through them, both at work and at home.
4. Improve data collection on menstrual issues and use that to support research toward developing multi-sectorial policy, programming and practice.
5. Encourage menstruation and menstrual-disorder friendly policies in Member States.
6. Support efforts to counteract menstrual discrimination at work.
7. Raise awareness by developing a report on how this all fits together, encouraging further action across Europe.
EIWH States that Menstrual Health is a Human Right
The EIWH has summarized in its report what many have been saying for years – that menstrual health is a human right. Some claim that this step is unnecessary… but is it? Menstrual hygiene products are still taxed as luxury items in many European countries. As these products are a necessity for healthy female hygiene, and the added tax makes them prohibitively expensive for some populations, this has become a human rights issue.
According to the EIWH, fostering an atmosphere where women and girls feel comfortable in voicing their health issues, both in the workplace and to doctors, is vital.
1. Enable all people to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health and ensure that their human rights are respected, protected and fulfilled.
2. Ensure that all people can enjoy the highest attainable standard of sexual and reproductive health and well-being.
3. Guarantee universal access to sexual and reproductive health and eliminate inequities.
With all these quality organizations working toward similar goals, we’re thankfully and finally on our way out of the black hole that has been menstrual rights and health, both mental and physical. Let’s keep breaking those taboos, making life better in every way for the next generation.