Prisoners of Periods

November 11, 2018

Interior-toilet-mainentance.jpgUnicef, SIDA, UN Water, and many more, continuously raise the issue of inadequate sanitation access for women across the world. Evidently, the infrastructure of sanitation access in some parts of the world is insufficient, broken down, sometimes even non-existent. Stockholm’s issue with the lack of public toilets in the inner city becomes laughable in comparison, yet remains valid. When considering the question from a global perspective, it is clear to see the potential consequences for menstruators in the situation of an infrastructural break down of public toilets where they fail to meet the demands of uterine carriers.

SIDA argues that there is a strong correlation between gender equality and access to sanitation and hygiene. They claim that ‘inadequate access to sanitation and hygiene disproportionally affect poor women and girls, as they are often faced with additional challenges related to menstrual hygiene, personal safety and sexual harassments and violence.’ If one tries to extend these arguments to the context of Stockholm, one can immediately identify the victims in a situation where the infrastructure of public toilets is broken down, namely the homeless and the displaced. Furthermore, with the absence of all public toilets that provide with the needs for menstruation management, uterine carriers would have to abandon all of their educational and profession commitments, and face the same reality as many uterine carriers globally, imprisoned in their own homes.

To some extent the infrastructure of public sanitation access for menstruators in Stockholm is broken down, as it is not adapted to the needs of all uterine carriers. The Authority of Equality (Jämställdhetsmyndigheten), established in the beginning of the year, has formulated a so called ‘certificate of menstruation’. The purpose of the certificate is to reward offices that have created a working environment that is adapted to the needs of uterine carriers. One can interpret the formulation of the certificate as a reaction to the lack of provision of sustaining menstrual hygiene for uterine carriers at the work place. The certificate enables uterine carriers to participate in the professional labour market.

The inadequate public sanitation access in Stockholm does grant some optimism, as the devastating state of the infrastructure will hopefully highlight its faults. Peter Jackson’s idea of ‘broken world thinking’ offers some perspective on the matter. Valeria Graziano and Kim Trogal reference him in their ‘The Politics of Collective Repair: Examining object relations in a postwork society,’ where they further suggest that ‘the breakdown of urban infrastructures is the moment when the systems supporting our existence become exposed, and that this exposure offers the opportunity to revisit them.’ Perhaps this somewhat disregard for menstruators in the built environment will lead to not just a working environment accommodating menstruation but also an urban plan adapted to uterine carriers and their needs.


06_Infrastructural Maintenance_Sara Sako

Public sanitation access in Stockholm


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