UNITED NATIONS HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL - 50TH SESSION
Panel discussion on menstrual hygiene management, human rights and gender equality
Statement of the Kingdom of the Netherlands delivered by Simone Gerrits
My contribution today has been written by our Youth Ambassador, Laura Bas, who unfortunately could not be here herself today.
As the Netherlands, we very much welcome this panel discussion. Investing in menstrual health is critical for the realization of all human rights, and in particular in relation to gender equality, bodily autonomy, and sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Poor menstrual health is a challenge that affects persons who menstruate across the world, in all countries and in all settings. Due to period poverty, 1 in 9 women and girls in the Netherlands are not able to afford menstrual products. In many places, menstruation causes girls to miss school-days or drop out of school all-together. Not to forget about the challenges of menstruating in a workplace.
Practical problems such as the inability to afford menstrual products and lack of sanitary facilities are further compounded by misinformation, taboos and harmful practices. The social norm that menstruation should be hidden and is shameful is prevalent across cultures. In some places it is believed that a girl should not have her second period at home, so she should be married off. Menstruation, considered as the onset of fertility, is therefore connected to harmful practices such as child, early and forced marriages and FGM, as well as to adolescent pregnancies and sexual – and gender-based violence.
In the Netherlands’ policy for development cooperation, we address menstrual health across sectors, through our investments in sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). We invest in comprehensive sexuality education to break taboos, address gender stereotypes, and teach young people how to make reusable pads. And we invest in improved sanitary facilities in schools as well as waste disposal.
Let me close my contribution by calling for more disaggregated data collection on menstrual health, by using the recently launched Priority List of Indicators for Girls’ Menstrual Health and Hygiene, developed by the ‘Global Menstrual Collective’ amongst others.