New research reveals more than one in three (37%) of UK women have experienced period shaming, through things like bullying, isolation or jokes about it being ‘that time of the month’. Even more shocking is that nearly half (40%) of those who have been shamed said it was their partner who was responsible for the shaming.
The YouGov poll, commissioned by international charity ActionAid, explored women’s feelings about their menstruation and the stigma that still surrounds this natural bodily function. The charity released the research ahead of World Menstrual Hygiene Day (May 28th), to raise awareness of the millions of women and girls around the world who are held back because of their periods.
The study shows that period shaming was experienced at home and in the workplace as well as at school. A huge three in four (77%) of UK women who have felt isolated said this happened at school, 63% who have experienced shaming through jokes said this happened at home and over a third (34%) said this happened to them in the workplace. Even more shocking is that the shaming comes from those who are closest to them, with 40% of respondents who have experienced period shaming citing partners, followed by friends (30%) and colleagues (27%).
The research also exposes the adverse emotions women still experience from an early age. Nearly half (46%) of UK women said they felt embarrassed the first time they got their period, 35% said they felt scared and 24% felt confused.
Girish Menon, chief executive of ActionAid said: “It is uncomfortable to see that even in the UK women are experiencing negative feelings about what should be an empowering rite of passage. Women and girls have the right to control and make choices about their own bodies. When they are denied the ability to manage their periods with dignity, cycles of poverty and gender inequality become harder to break.
“In the countries we work in, stigma and lack of access to sanitary products regularly holds women and girls back. Often girls will miss school which can lead to them dropping out altogether. This denies them of their basic right to be educated and reach their potential. We want women and girls worldwide to have the confidence to say #MyBodyIsMine and not let their periods hold them back.”
In addition, the survey showed women in the UK go out of their way to avoid period shaming. Over half (52%) said they hide sanitary products when carrying them to the toilet so as not to embarrass others, and 43% said they did this because they thought people would embarrass them or make jokes. This applied to women in their late forties as well as their twenties, proving the fear of period shaming does not abate with age.
Donate to ActionAid to help the most vulnerable women and girls in the world access the resources to manage their periods with dignity, such as clean sanitary products, and ensure girls are educated about periods, sex and pregnancy: https://www.actionaid.org.uk/menstrual-hygiene-day-appeal
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Notes to Editors
1. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,076 adults, of which 1,094 were women who have had a period. Fieldwork was undertaken between 16th - 17th May 2018. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
2. ActionAid is a not-for-profit international charity, working with women and girls in 45 countries around the world, including India, Kenya, Nepal and Rwanda