migrant women

Lawsuit Says Migrant Women Denied Human Right to Manage Their Menstrual Needs

Basic universal human rights of migrants have been on the line. A California led class-action lawsuit brought on by civil rights groups over the ‘questionable’ medical care and treatment of mostly ‘Northern Triangle’ or Central American migrants detained at the Mexico/U.S. border is bringing light and shock to the public.

Recent testimonies of questionable treatment of migrants detained reveal not only shocking conditions of detention centers but denial to migrant young girls and women health care needs. Unable to manage their own menstruation care for these migrant women has brought on public outrage and the reminder of universal human rights for women and girls.  The young girls and women have been given one sanitary pad a day. Similar to claims in women’s incarceration facilities, it is clearly not enough to be handed one sanitary pad – it can be dangerous to a woman’s health – toxic shock syndrome. In addition, to being dangerous to a woman’s health – it is degrading and can bring about unnecessary shame.

As women who menstruate, who can not relate to having an accidental period ‘leak’! However, imagine being in a position unable to control, manage your period with supplies and denied access to a washroom. It’s inhuman. Which is why human rights groups, civil groups, migrant and women advocacy groups say it is in direct violation of the human rights of girls and women. 

History of Treatment of Border Migrants

Considering Trump’s family separation policy part of the ‘Zero Tolerance’ approach was met with public outcry, considered the most inhuman of all immigration policies, it set the motion for controversial treatment of migrants. Parents, mothers were separated from the children for days, weeks, months and in some unfortunate cases, a year or two. 

Then as more news reports from detention centers surfaced, detailed stories surfaced of stench and filth, inadequate food and migrant children dying from preventative illnesses under supervised border patrol detention health assistance.  

The Human Rights of Girls and Women

The questionable treatment of migrant girls and women brings about the discrimination faced every day. Young girls and women ignored and unable to manage their menstruation needs properly are forced to bleed through their underwear and clothes.  This appalling treatment of migrant girls and women has triggered the ‘universal human rights’ conversation. What are ‘human rights’ especially as it pertains to girls and women?  Below are a few rights-  

  • The right to human dignity – When women and girls cannot access safe bathing facilities and safe and effective means of managing their menstrual hygiene, they are not able to manage their menstruation with dignity. Menstruation-related teasing, exclusion and shame also undermine the right to human dignity.
  • The right to an adequate standard of health and well-being – Women and girls may experience negative health consequences when they lack the supplies and facilities to manage their menstrual health. Menstruation stigma can also prevent women and girls from seeking treatment for menstruation-related disorders or pain, adversely affecting their health and well-being.

Source: United Nations Population Fund

The health issues and normalcy of girls and women’s bodies are often overlooked by decision-makers, policymakers and of course, many men, white men at the top of these organizations. No question that change is needed from the top to the bottom. Menstruation is not a ‘girls’ or ‘womens’ issue – it is a human issue that needs to be addressed by all. 

The fight for menstrual equity is on with the help of this class-action lawsuit so that detained migrants will gain rightful justice and treatment, be able to access supplies for their menstrual needs and not be deprived of other basic needs.

So what can we do for migrant families, we listed organizations that are helping to help the migrant situation – to assist migrant girls and women with their health needs – check with organizations first, for donations of sanitary and tampon supplies.

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