Endometriosis Explained

Endometriosis Explained

Endometriosis affects one in every 10 women in Ireland. Carrying a huge personal and social cost, it can cause debilitating pain, extremely heavy periods and sometimes infertility. Despite this, awareness of endometriosis is sorely lacking. This STAND article aims to spread awareness of this chronic condition. 

 

What is endometriosis?

It is a chronic condition where tissue, similar to the tissue that grows inside the uterus, grows outside of it. The disease causes inflammation and severe pain in the pelvic area, ovaries, bowel and bladder. While being one of the most common diseases diagnosed, it is still very poorly diagnosed. In Ireland, it takes an average of nine years to get a diagnosis for endometriosis. This long-term condition commonly affects menstruating women, particularly those in their 30s or 40s, but it has also been found in trans males, premenarchal and postmenopausal females. 

 

What are the symptoms? 

Symptoms of endometriosis include pain in the abdomen, heavy menstrual bleeding, difficulty surrounding fertility, irritable bowel syndrome, rectal bleeding, and pain during and after sex. The most common symptom is severe pain before and during menstrual periods. Symptoms may become worse at certain times in the menstrual cycle, particularly at ovulation, as hormone levels vary. The inflammatory reaction that occurs can result in adhesions which develop when scar tissue attaches separate structures in the body or organs together. Some symptoms of endometriosis are cyclical, meaning they only occur each month during menstruation. These symptoms include weight gain, heavy menstrual bleeding, pain, insomnia, nausea and migraines. The amount of diseased tissue you have does not directly correlate to the severity of your symptoms. Some women will have very severe symptoms while others won’t show any external signs of the condition. 

 

What causes endometriosis?

There is no known cause for endometriosis; however, there are a few factors that increase your chances of having it. It is likely that you will have the condition if a member of your family has it (particularly your mother or sister) and women with low immune systems are more vulnerable to endometriosis.

 

How can it be treated?

This disease is incurable; however, it’s possible to lessen pain and symptoms. Endometriosis can only be fully diagnosed by a laparoscopy, which doctors are hesitant to do as it is an invasive, surgical procedure. Transvaginal ultrasound can be used to diagnose ovarian endometriosis. An MRI can also help doctors understand the extent of the disease; however, only a laparoscopy can give a definite diagnosis. Recurrence of diseased tissue after surgery is 50 percent over five years. 

 

Why is it hard to get diagnosed? 

Due to the vast range of symptoms, it is difficult to diagnose endometriosis based on those factors alone. Endometriosis and its symptoms are similar to those of other conditions. Long delays in diagnosis are also due to normalisation of symptoms, in particular severe pain during the menstrual cycle, as well as the use of contraceptive pills which suppress the symptoms of the condition. 

 

Endometriosis and fertility

While endometriosis is one of the leading causes of infertility, approximately 70 percent of women with the disease can conceive without treatment. There are also two large population-based databases that suggest that endometriosis is linked to miscarriage. The two databases are from Sweden and Scotland and show that women with endometriosis are 20% more likely to miscarry compared to women that did not. 

 

Endometriosis and your mental health

Endometriosis has a huge impact on women’s quality of life, suffering from severe pain, undergoing numerous surgeries and often having difficulty with fertility. It can be taxing for women’s mental health to live with endometriosis, especially with the delay in diagnosis and invasive procedures to get a full and correct diagnosis. There are a variety of support groups, such as Endometriosis Association of Ireland, to aid women in living with endometriosis. 

 

To find out more about Endometriosis visit: https://www.endometriosis.ie/about-endometriosis/

 

Photo by ALDE Group on Flickr

 

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The 6th of January: Women’s Christmas

The tradition of celebrating Nollaig na mBan is particularly associated with the West of Ireland and it seems to have originated as a reward for all of the hard work by women of doing the cooking, cleaning and organising of Christmas festivities.

STAND Women: 2019 in Review

Women make up roughly 50% of our global population but still face significant human rights challenges, including some which are less visible but equally damaging such as gender bias in institutions like the media. Cassie, our Women’s Section Editor, reminds us of the women’s rights issues that were important to us in 2019.

The Prevalence of “Lad Culture” and Toxic Attitudes in Ireland

Despite progressive changes occurring throughout Ireland in this decade, findings exploring attitudes towards gender equality and domestic abuse in Ireland has proven the prevalence of toxic attitudes in young men. Ireland’s young women are still facing catcalling, sexist remarks and attitudes from peers, among other serious and intimidating behaviours.

FemFest 2019: Women’s inequality should come with a mental health warning

The National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) hosted their fifth annual FemFest on Saturday, November 30th in Dublin’s City Centre. Women between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five were invited to freely participate and unite in various workshops, panel discussions and listen to guest speakers. The event succeeded in empowering the future voices of our society, to continue pushing to implement change across all fields of adversity.

Book Review: “Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!”

“Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!” is a collection of powerful essays, interspersed with beautiful illustrations, that tell the stories of female human rights defenders from Egypt, Kuwait, Palestine, Tunisia, Turkey, Somalia and Sudan. Behind each story is a meeting of two women. Here is our review.

What is Ecofeminism?

Ecofeminism is a movement that unites two issues close to our hearts at STAND: women’s rights and the environment. It is perhaps one of the most useful ways we can look at a wide range of social issues we face today. However, the term may be unfamiliar to many.

New Focus on Gender in Ireland’s Citizens’ Assembly

New Focus on Gender in Ireland’s Citizens’ Assembly

Ireland’s Citizens’ Assembly is shifting its focus to gender equality. Over the next six months, it will examine issues like the gender pay gap, sexual assault and how to increase women’s participation in business and politics. The issue of childcare is also expected to face serious scrutiny. 

The National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) has said it’s crucial that specific outcomes on care are reached, and hopes for a commitment to hold a referendum on removing the contentious ‘women in the home’ provision from Ireland’s constitution. Orla O’Connor, Director of NWCI, has also stated that the housing and homeless crisis and the “epidemic of violence against women” are “critical barriers to gender equality”, and that the “voices and experiences of women” must be central to discussions. 

Focus Ireland has recently blogged about the shocking numbers of women who are homeless in Ireland, and latest statistics from the European Commission clearly show that, while “Irish women have more rights than their mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers”, gender equality is yet to be achieved in many areas including employment, career advancement, politics, and gender-based violence. 

Ireland’s Citizens’ Assembly consists of a chairperson (Dr. Catherine Day will chair this assembly) and 99 citizens who are randomly selected to represent the Irish electorate in terms of gender, age and regional spread. Over a series of weekends, its members hear and deliberate expert evidence which is presented to them. At the end, they vote on proposed recommendations to be made to the State. 

In recent years, citizens’ assemblies have considered the issue of the Eighth Amendment and Marriage Equality with great success, as both sets of recommendations ultimately led to landmark legal breakthroughs in this country. Issues such as climate change and voting reform have also been deliberated, albeit with varying levels of success (though the recommendations on climate change did play a crucial role in shaping Ireland’s Climate Action Plan). 

There are divergent views regarding the efficacy of the citizens’ assembly model. News organisation Politico recently wrote that citizens’ assemblies are a “complex and limited democratic tool that can be used well – or badly”. 

One glaring issue relates to the actual implementation of their recommendations. While there has been notable success regarding certain issues (abortion and marriage equality in particular), many recommendations of Ireland’s citizens’ assembly have not progressed very far – and this is something which clearly needs addressing. 

Other issues include the hidden participation costs, including time costs, for members, something which also feeds into the ‘representativeness’ of the sample (for instance people with weekend work or care obligations are unlikely to be able to participate). One particularly interesting critique which has been levelled at the citizens’ assembly is that the model allows the Irish government to outsource responsibility for issues it should really be dealing with itself – and allows TDs to distance themselves from issues with might potentially alienate their voters. 

On the other hand, commentators like George Monbiot have recognised that these kind of democratic platforms provide citizens with a meaningful voice outside of the polling station and encourage greater public ownership of the political process. The citizens’ assembly process also arguably provides a useful feedback mechanism which can encourage progressives within Ireland’s government to take action and create meaningful change. 

STAND will be closely following all developments regarding the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality over the next few months. Stay tuned!

 

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

The 6th of January: Women’s Christmas

The tradition of celebrating Nollaig na mBan is particularly associated with the West of Ireland and it seems to have originated as a reward for all of the hard work by women of doing the cooking, cleaning and organising of Christmas festivities.

STAND Women: 2019 in Review

Women make up roughly 50% of our global population but still face significant human rights challenges, including some which are less visible but equally damaging such as gender bias in institutions like the media. Cassie, our Women’s Section Editor, reminds us of the women’s rights issues that were important to us in 2019.

The Prevalence of “Lad Culture” and Toxic Attitudes in Ireland

Despite progressive changes occurring throughout Ireland in this decade, findings exploring attitudes towards gender equality and domestic abuse in Ireland has proven the prevalence of toxic attitudes in young men. Ireland’s young women are still facing catcalling, sexist remarks and attitudes from peers, among other serious and intimidating behaviours.

FemFest 2019: Women’s inequality should come with a mental health warning

The National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) hosted their fifth annual FemFest on Saturday, November 30th in Dublin’s City Centre. Women between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five were invited to freely participate and unite in various workshops, panel discussions and listen to guest speakers. The event succeeded in empowering the future voices of our society, to continue pushing to implement change across all fields of adversity.

Book Review: “Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!”

“Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!” is a collection of powerful essays, interspersed with beautiful illustrations, that tell the stories of female human rights defenders from Egypt, Kuwait, Palestine, Tunisia, Turkey, Somalia and Sudan. Behind each story is a meeting of two women. Here is our review.

What is Ecofeminism?

Ecofeminism is a movement that unites two issues close to our hearts at STAND: women’s rights and the environment. It is perhaps one of the most useful ways we can look at a wide range of social issues we face today. However, the term may be unfamiliar to many.

Witches – a History of Misogyny

Witches – a History of Misogyny

On this All-Hallows Eve, witches will be painting the town black. People will be watching witchy movies, decorating their houses and gardens with witches to delight trick or treaters, and dressing up in some of the most reliable Halloween costumes: the spooky or sexy witch.  

The recent success of TV shows like The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (watch it for its shameless celebration of feminism and focus on gender!), American Horror Story’s Coven, books like Stacey Hall’s The Familiars, and literary characters like Hermione Granger, have brought witches – good and bad – back into the mainstream with a veritable bang! 

But while witches continue to fascinate as feminist symbols, the history of the witch is also bound up with a history of misogyny that still persists today. The Guardian recently published an excellent article entitled From Circe to Clinton: why powerful women are labelled as witches. In it, the author, Madeline Miller, writes how witches were feared because they transgress norms of female power and female sexuality. She details the types of women who were typically labelled as witches: older women and widows, foreign women (fears of witches are often grounded in racism), as well as women with political power like Joan of Arc and Anne Boleyn. This “othering” process conveniently served to root out women from society who were different and were seen as threats for various reasons. Fast forward to 2016 and the depictions of Hilary Clinton as a witch during the U.S. election campaign illustrate that the term “witch” is still a powerful label used in an attempt to subjugate women who are seen as usurping the status quo. 

Silvia Federici’s seminal book Caliban and the Witch considers how capitalism as an economic system helped to transform ordinary women into witches. Federici discusses how the transition to capitalism helped divide people along gender lines and how anger over the system was channelled into forms of misogyny that would set the stage for the witch trials in Europe. She writes that the witch hunts were a major political initiative – as well as a religious one – to control women’s bodies as “a means of production and reproduction”. Whether or not you agree with Federici’s theories about capitalism, there is no doubt the witch hunts represented a form of state and church-sanctioned gendercide or feminicide whereby tens of thousands of women were literally hunted down and killed. 

And while it might seem that witch trials and witch hunts are ancient history, this is unfortunately not the case. In the last decade, UN officials have reported a global rise in the number of women killed as witches. In India, older women are targeted as scapegoats or as an excuse to seize their lands and goods. In Saudi Arabia, witch-hunting is fairly institutionalised and women have been convicted of practising witchcraft by the courts. In Ghana, women suspected of witchcraft have been exiled to “witch camps”, as captured in Rungano Nyoni’s excellent film, I Am Not a Witch. In the US, a survey found that 21% of people believed in witches of the “evil” variety. 

So, while donning your pointy hat and stripy stockings this Halloween, it is important to take a moment to consider the misogyny that still permeates women’s lives – both in the form of severe human rights abuses but also in the casual everyday sexism whereby “witch” is still wielded as a pejorative term to suppress women’s agency by men who feel threatened by their power. 

 

Happy Halloween Witches!

 

Photo on Max Pixel

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

The 6th of January: Women’s Christmas

The tradition of celebrating Nollaig na mBan is particularly associated with the West of Ireland and it seems to have originated as a reward for all of the hard work by women of doing the cooking, cleaning and organising of Christmas festivities.

STAND Women: 2019 in Review

Women make up roughly 50% of our global population but still face significant human rights challenges, including some which are less visible but equally damaging such as gender bias in institutions like the media. Cassie, our Women’s Section Editor, reminds us of the women’s rights issues that were important to us in 2019.

The Prevalence of “Lad Culture” and Toxic Attitudes in Ireland

Despite progressive changes occurring throughout Ireland in this decade, findings exploring attitudes towards gender equality and domestic abuse in Ireland has proven the prevalence of toxic attitudes in young men. Ireland’s young women are still facing catcalling, sexist remarks and attitudes from peers, among other serious and intimidating behaviours.

FemFest 2019: Women’s inequality should come with a mental health warning

The National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) hosted their fifth annual FemFest on Saturday, November 30th in Dublin’s City Centre. Women between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five were invited to freely participate and unite in various workshops, panel discussions and listen to guest speakers. The event succeeded in empowering the future voices of our society, to continue pushing to implement change across all fields of adversity.

Abortion and gay marriage: change is coming in Northern Ireland

Abortion and gay marriage: change is coming in Northern Ireland

On Monday, a plenary session was held in Stormont, Northern Ireland’s Assembly. The Assembly, which has not sat in over a thousand days, was brought back together to try and vote about the decriminalisation of abortion and the legalisation of same sex marriage. 

 

What happened and why now?

Since January 2017, Northern Ireland lives without an Executive and an Assembly. So, eventually, Westminster had to pass a bill to keep these institutions running. On the 24th of July 2019, the Northern Ireland Act was granted. This bill extends the period for forming a new Northern Ireland Executive and states 13th of January 2020 as the new deadline for negotiation (which is pretty soon in negotiating time).

But this is not the only interesting thing about that bill. Labour MPs Conor Mc Ginn and Stella Creasy submitted two smart amendments to the vote: if by midnight the 21st of October 2019, no executive power was up running in Northern Ireland, then abortion would be decriminalised and same sex marriage would be legalised. The amendment passed easily in Westminster with 383 votes in favour and 73 against. 

As the due date was getting closer, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) had a desperate attempt to stop this modernisation of Northern Ireland. It gathered more than 30 signatures of Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA – Northern Ireland parliamentarians), the minimum required for a petition of concern. Therefore, the DUP was allowed to express its concerns before the assembly, called back for the occasion. 

The Social Democratic and Labour parties came but walked out during the session to protest. Several parties, such as Sinn Féin, Alliance, Green Party and People Before Profit, didn’t attend the session, acknowledging the “political stunt” of the DUP and the TUV (Traditionalist Unionist Voice). “They knew it was a political stunt that was going to fail and have no effect. But they did it anyway. In my view, they didn’t do themselves any favours and they didn’t do these institutions and the efforts to reestablish them any favours”, says Sinn Féin’s MLA for East Derry, Caoimhe Archibald (see full interview below).

Eventually, abortion and same-sex marriage rights were not even discussed in what was a really short session. Less than one hour was all the time needed for the (DUP) Speaker to deny the vote and debate on the concerns expressed through the petition. In fact, it would be controversial if he’d decide whether to hold a vote or not in the Assembly. A new Speaker has to be elected on cross-community basis for a long time now, and only this new Speaker would be entitled to make such a decision to hold a vote or not. 

 

What legal regime during the transition period and afterwards? 

So here we are, after 21st of October 2019. Northern Ireland didn’t get an Executive on Monday. No bill was able to be passed in the Assembly. Section 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, criminalizing abortion, have been repealed and new abortion regulation should be implemented in the North by the 31st of March 2020. 

From now on, no criminal charges can be brought against any women getting an abortion, nor against anyone delivering an abortion. All the current investigations and cases made against women seeking an abortion in the past and not closed yet, will be dropped.

Between now and the end of March, women can’t hope to get an abortion on Northern Irish soil unless they meet the criteria of “fatal or serious fetal anomality” and are not pregnant for more than 28 weeks. So, for a little longer, women will have to travel to Britain. However, they can call the Central Booking in England and their travel and accommodation expenses will be funded, regardless of the individual’s income. One carer’s expenses can also be covered, so that women don’t have to go through the abortion process on their own oversea. 

From April, two sites in Northern Ireland will be open to abortion. The North should be one of the first jurisdiction to organize buffer zones around the abortion sites, prosecuting anyone trying to protest in the area. Also, medical staff should get proper training on abortion cares. 

The British Government has until the 13th of January 2020 to legalise gay marriage. As a 28-day notice is needed before a wedding can take place, the first gay marriage in Northern Ireland should be celebrated around Valentine’s Day, in February 2020. 

 

What was the legal regime so far?

So far, in Northern Ireland, women could only get an abortion if there was a “risk of real and serious adverse effect on their physical or mental health, which is either long term or permanent”. This regime of exception went against the Abortion Act 1967 that makes abortion legal on several grounds up to 28 weeks in Britain. More than 1,000 Northern Irish women travel to Britain every year to get an abortion. 

Same sex marriage was neither performed nor even recognized in Northern Ireland. Civil Partnership was granted to gay couple in 2005, and presented as an adequate alternative. 

 

 

Photo and video by Shannon Takahashi 

 

Watch down below the full interview of Sinn Féin’s MLA for East Derry, Caoimhe Archibald and a vox-pop made on Queen’s University’s campus (Belfast) on Monday Morning.

Unacceptable Status Quo in Accessing Abortion Services in Ireland

Unacceptable Status Quo in Accessing Abortion Services in Ireland

The 2018 referendum – which repealed the oppressive Eighth Amendment to the Constitution and allowed room for the government to legislate for abortion access – came following years of grassroots activism and campaigning. But what is the status quo regarding access to abortion services in Ireland? STAND investigates. 

Abortion in Ireland is now regulated by the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018 which provides the legislative framework for the provision of abortion services in defined circumstances. The framework draws on the recommendations of the 2017 Citizen’s Assembly and the Joint Oireachtas Committee. Both groups recommended that termination of pregnancy should be permitted ‘with no restriction to reason’ up to 12 weeks’ gestation age. This is in line with the laws of other countries such as France, Finland and Germany. After the 12-week gestation the Bill permits termination in cases of risk to life, of serious risk to health, or fatal foetal abnormality. 

The criterion of “serious” risk to health has been denounced by groups such as Amnesty International and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties as it puts the onus on doctors to determine whether the risk is severe enough. This puts doctors in a difficult position, making them more likely to err on the side of caution. Other issues include the fact that abortion services are provided free of charge to Republic of Ireland residents but not to women from Northern Ireland (as many groups had campaigned for). A 3-day waiting period between initial consultation and the termination procedure was also inserted into the Bill despite protests from activists. 

The continued criminalisation of terminations outside of the current framework is one of the biggest agenda items for abortion rights activists as – although the 2018 Bill does not criminalise women procuring abortions for themselves – it states that it is an offence for a person to carry out or assist in carrying out a termination outside of the provisions of the Bill. Amnesty International Ireland (whose original abortion rights campaign in 2015 was titled ‘She is Not a Criminal’, focussing on the inhumane nature of the 14-year jail sentences placed on women accessing illegal abortions in Ireland) has condemned this continued criminalisation. This 14-year jail sentence continues to loom over doctors who are deciding whether there is a “serious” risk to the health of the mother, or if a foetal anomaly is fatal. Linda Kavanagh from the Abortion Rights Campaign stressed that women who qualified for terminations in Ireland were still being forced to travel ‘due to overly cautious interpretations of the law from doctors fearing criminal sanctions’. In November 2018, Dáil Eireann voted on the possibility of decriminalisation but this proposal was defeated. Minister Simon Harris claimed that continued criminalisation was necessary from a policy perspective and that removing it may put the life or health of women at risk. 

The mandatory three-day waiting period between the initial GP consultation and the termination is an aspect of the Irish legislation which falls short of international human rights law. It puts some of the most vulnerable women in a difficult position when they are trying to procure abortion services. The Irish Council for Civil Liberties characterised this mandatory waiting period as an ‘unnecessary restriction on safe access to abortion [that] reinforces patriarchal notions of women as incapable of making decisions regarding their own health’. It also highlights how this will have the most impact on people in abusive relationships, those who live in remote areas or in Direct Provision centres, disabled people and those who struggle to pay for two separate doctors’ appointments. In June 2019, the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) raised concerns about these barriers to access for those in vulnerable or complicated situations, as well as concerns around delays in “buffer-zone” legislation. Dr Cliona Loughnane of the NWCI highlighted the ‘institutional conscientious objection’ which can be seen in places such as Kilkenny and which the government promised would not be the case. She also calls for urgency in passing buffer-zone legislation to protect women and their doctors. In many cases, particularly in rural areas, the inability to access abortion services privately and without exposure to protestors is enough to force some women to travel to the UK.

One of the Together For Yes slogans seen on billboards across Ireland during the lead up to the referendum stated ‘sometimes a private matter needs public support’. Although in theory Ireland now has legislation allowing for abortion services, in practice there is still much to be done to ensure access to these services is a reality for every single person capable of becoming pregnant in this country.

 

 

Photo by Together for Yes on Facebook

 

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

The 6th of January: Women’s Christmas

The tradition of celebrating Nollaig na mBan is particularly associated with the West of Ireland and it seems to have originated as a reward for all of the hard work by women of doing the cooking, cleaning and organising of Christmas festivities.

STAND Women: 2019 in Review

Women make up roughly 50% of our global population but still face significant human rights challenges, including some which are less visible but equally damaging such as gender bias in institutions like the media. Cassie, our Women’s Section Editor, reminds us of the women’s rights issues that were important to us in 2019.

The Prevalence of “Lad Culture” and Toxic Attitudes in Ireland

Despite progressive changes occurring throughout Ireland in this decade, findings exploring attitudes towards gender equality and domestic abuse in Ireland has proven the prevalence of toxic attitudes in young men. Ireland’s young women are still facing catcalling, sexist remarks and attitudes from peers, among other serious and intimidating behaviours.

FemFest 2019: Women’s inequality should come with a mental health warning

The National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) hosted their fifth annual FemFest on Saturday, November 30th in Dublin’s City Centre. Women between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five were invited to freely participate and unite in various workshops, panel discussions and listen to guest speakers. The event succeeded in empowering the future voices of our society, to continue pushing to implement change across all fields of adversity.

Book Review: “Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!”

“Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!” is a collection of powerful essays, interspersed with beautiful illustrations, that tell the stories of female human rights defenders from Egypt, Kuwait, Palestine, Tunisia, Turkey, Somalia and Sudan. Behind each story is a meeting of two women. Here is our review.

What is Ecofeminism?

Ecofeminism is a movement that unites two issues close to our hearts at STAND: women’s rights and the environment. It is perhaps one of the most useful ways we can look at a wide range of social issues we face today. However, the term may be unfamiliar to many.

The true cost of period shame

The true cost of period shame

The commercialisation of women’s sanitary products has contributed to the unhelpful notion that a period is inherently wrong in some vague, grimy sense. This completely natural experience is presented as strictly ‘women’s business’; something which must remain private and exclusive to the individual – and which must be hidden from society at all costs. It is a problem urgently requiring a solution.

In a recent commercial campaign for period products, the Australian company Libra was criticised after their depiction of menstruation was deemed ‘distasteful and unnecessary’ by some viewers. The offending advertisement depicted menstrual blood running down the legs of a woman showering, a used sanitary pad, and a visual demonstration of the pads’ absorbency. More than 600 formal complaints were made to the ad standards authority stating that the advertisement was ‘vulgar’ and ‘extremely offensive’. However, these complaints were swiftly dismissed, with the campaign gaining praise for its attempts to fight period taboos. The advertisement has raised questions regarding the dialogue that presently surrounds periods.

Period shame attaches itself to women and girls for many reasons. Symptoms associated with menstruation include nausea, back pain, vomiting and headaches. Such symptoms have forced girls to miss school with recent Irish studies carried out by Plan International showing 61% of girls are too embarrassed to discuss their periods. A further 88% of girls feel less capable of paying attention in class during their period. Similar research by Plan International is being carried out on a global scale. Results in India show that 20% of girls living in rural areas will leave school once they get their first period. In Malawi, 70% of girls miss 1 to 3 days of school a month due to their periods. These results highlight the injustices, embarrassment, shame and unnecessary challenges girls must contend with when faced with a natural bodily occurrence – and they illustrate how period shame is a serious barrier to the educational experience of girls all over the world. 

Other barriers to attending school during one’s period can be associated with the cost of sanitary products. In Ireland the average annual cost of sanitary products is estimated at €132. This price does not include the cost for pain relief such as painkillers. The cost also fails to include any new underwear that may need to be purchased when leakages occur and underwear is soiled from blood. Campaigns such as Free Periods in the UK aim to tackle the cost associated with menstruation. The goal of this campaign is to ensure that no girl has to miss another day of school due to the cost of sanitary products. Similarly, the charity Homeless Period fundraises money and takes donations of sanitary products for homeless women across Ireland and the UK. 

In recent days, the Free Period organizer Amika George has started a new campaign called Free Period Stories. The campaign aims to end the embarrassment and shame that surrounds periods and to open a dialogue surrounding menstruation. 

Free Period, Homeless Period and the ad campaign run by Libra all serve a vital role in combating the damaging implications of period taboos.  

 

To find out more about these issues – and to join in the menstruation conversation – you can visit: https://www.freeperiods.org/ & http://thehomelessperiod.com/

 

 

Photo by Marco Verch on Flickr.

 

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

The 6th of January: Women’s Christmas

The tradition of celebrating Nollaig na mBan is particularly associated with the West of Ireland and it seems to have originated as a reward for all of the hard work by women of doing the cooking, cleaning and organising of Christmas festivities.

STAND Women: 2019 in Review

Women make up roughly 50% of our global population but still face significant human rights challenges, including some which are less visible but equally damaging such as gender bias in institutions like the media. Cassie, our Women’s Section Editor, reminds us of the women’s rights issues that were important to us in 2019.

The Prevalence of “Lad Culture” and Toxic Attitudes in Ireland

Despite progressive changes occurring throughout Ireland in this decade, findings exploring attitudes towards gender equality and domestic abuse in Ireland has proven the prevalence of toxic attitudes in young men. Ireland’s young women are still facing catcalling, sexist remarks and attitudes from peers, among other serious and intimidating behaviours.

FemFest 2019: Women’s inequality should come with a mental health warning

The National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) hosted their fifth annual FemFest on Saturday, November 30th in Dublin’s City Centre. Women between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five were invited to freely participate and unite in various workshops, panel discussions and listen to guest speakers. The event succeeded in empowering the future voices of our society, to continue pushing to implement change across all fields of adversity.