The Insidious reach of discrimination against menstruation is so extensive that it is almost unimaginable. Like a spider with eight legs, the evil, negative value given to menstruation and the individuals who menstruate reach into all the different aspects of one’s life, from one leg in the physical body, one in the social value, and one in the mental and emotional value. These all contribute to ones inherent value of self and how the society views themselves.
In early-mid September, A innocent young girl ( name unknown) in Kenya lost her life due to the many legs of menstrual discrimination and its impact on her inherent value to herself and to society. She killed herself after she was shamed and mentally /emotionally harassed by her school teacher, called “dirty”, after getting her first menses during school and physically isolated from her learning environment due to soiling her clothes with blood.
This was a tragedy. But more than that it was murder. Murder by the teacher who has internalized the discriminatory principles of menstruation, who has subjected her student to shame and isolated her to ‘teach” her that she is “dirty” because she is menstruating. Murder by the hands of a society that supports these ideals. At this young age of puberty, her mental state is forming and developing and at this critical stage of many changes in her body, she is subjected to shame, stigma, isolation ( physical or mental), this is what led to her murder.
It was a murder by the lack of dignity.
We fight on for #dignifiedmenstruation because it is not the simple lack of menstrual products or clean toilets or lack of hygienic practices that caused this murder. It is the result of the lack of dignity given to this young life that was just proceeding through a natural processes. It is the lack of dignity that kills thousands of lives just like this one.
First and foremost, we must acknowledge that “girls” here, we define as cis-girls AND Trans-girls. Not every girl bleeds but elimination of discrimination against menstruation helps every girl.
To simply say we need to protect girls is an understatement. In this patriarchal system, where girls are individually and systematically oppressed in every sector of society from Gender-based violence, sexual harassment, unequal pay, low social value, domestic violence, violence specifically against trans-girls, menstrual discrimination and more, there is a critical need to not only protect our girls but to eliminate the very things they need protection from and empower to lift their voices and lives.
1. U.N. Report: 50,000 Women A Year Are Killed By Intimate Partners, Family Members. these figures are a gross underestimate due to the nature of data collection through self-reporting globally. (UNODC 2018) 1. This is mostly from Men – husbands, and family members participating in honor killings. 2. There is unfortunately little to no data on hate crimes for trans-women. 1. 12 Black trans women have been violently killed in USA in 2019 alone 2. Since January 2013, HRC has documented at least 128 transgender people who were victims of fatal violence; at least 110 were transgender people of color. Nearly nine in every 10 victims were transgender women and 45 percent of all domestic deaths occurred in the U.S. South. (HRC)
These numbers are real and this hate, violence is constructed and real against girls, and while not all girls menstruate, without eliminating discrimination against menstruation, the only physical indicator used as a proxy for “girls” and the idea of a “girls” as a gender construct, it is impossible to mitigate violence against girls. Without holding folks with power accountable like men and boys it will be impossible to achieve gender equity.
For girls that bleed, the first step is to provide dignity during menstruation, so that the very first distinction of their identity is not one full of shame, stigma, violence ( invisible and visible) but one full of power.