The first time menstrual hygiene management was explicitly included in A/HRC/RES/27/7 in 2014.
Human Rights Council resolution A/HRC/39/L.11, which was adopted by a broad majority on 21 September 2018, now includes significant new language on MHM.
Most importantly, while in previous resolutions MHM was only mentioned in perambulatory sections, the new resolution includes an operative paragraph on MHM. Paragraph 7 (e) calls upon states to “address the widespread stigma and shame surrounding menstruation and menstrual hygiene by ensuring access to factual information thereon, addressing the negative social norms around the issue and ensuring universal access to hygienic products and gender-sensitive facilities, including disposal options for menstrual products.”
This is paragraph is ground-breaking for two reasons: firstly, because it is the first time that a leading UN body calls upon states to address the challenges women and girls are facing in relation to menstruation and MHM. Secondly, because it recognizes that good menstrual hygiene requires not just access to hygienic products, but also access to accurate information, supportive social norms and gender-sensitive sanitation facilities, including disposal options.
Moreover, not only is this the strongest language on menstruation and MHM in UN any resolution to date, the resolution has also been co-sponsored (i.e. strongly supported) by most key donor countries for gender issues. Here’s the full list of all 50 co-sponsors: Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Belgium, Bulgaria, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Eritrea, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Haiti, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Maldives, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Niger, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Tunisia, Uruguay, Yemen.
“We think that the new resolution provides us with really powerful new ammunition to push states to take more action on MHM.” says Thorsten Kiefer, founder and CEO of WASH United.
As part of WASH United’s work on the human rights to water and sanitation, WASH United works with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to coordinate civil society advocacy on relevant Human Rights Council and General Assembly resolutions.
Resolution A/HRC/39/L.11 was passed on 27 September at the 39th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva in a vote of 44-to-1, with two abstentions.