Bloody unfair: Inequality related to menstruation – considering the role of discrimination law

Publisher:
Sydney Law School
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
Sydney Law Review, 2019, 41 (3)
Issue Date:
2019-09-01
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Drawing on growing social awareness, activism and scholarship, this article examines menstruation as an equality issue and its implications for discrimination law in Australia. It discusses the complex nature of inequality that arises in relation to menstruation. It also considers intersectional discrimination (when a combination of attributes generates a new form of discrimination) that occurs in relation to menstruation facing different groups: women and girls with disabilities, incarcerated women, and transgender, gender diverse and intersex people. The article considers how some forms of inequality related to menstruation might be addressed through discrimination law (workplace adjustments and provision of menstrual products in carceral settings) and points to limitations of discrimination law or its application, such as in relation to sterilisation of women and girls with disabilities and strip searching of incarcerated women. It concludes that Australian discrimination law can only have a limited impact in addressing menstrual inequality. This is because (a) the structure of the law is attribute-based and thus cannot address the complex intersections of sex and other attributes; (b) it cannot address structural inequality; and (c) it cannot adequately contend with embodied and abjected legal subjects. These conclusions have radical implications beyond menstruation inequality in contributing to broader discussions of how law can re-imagine gender difference and advance equality.
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