Dr. Inga Winkler is an Associate Professor in International Human Rights Law at the Central European University in Vienna, Austria. She takes a socio-legal approach to her research, which focuses on socio-economic rights, gender justice and sustainable development. Current research projects address menstruation through various angles, the human right to sanitation, and the UN Special Procedures.
Her books include the first comprehensive monograph on the human right to water, the Handbook on Critical Menstruation Studies, and an edited volume on the Sustainable Development Goals. Her articles have appeared in the Journal of Human Rights, the Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters, Feminist Formations, Culture, Health & Sexuality, among others.
Inga is the founder and co-director of the Working Group on Menstrual Health & Gender Justice ...
Universal realization of the human rights to water and sanitation in high-income countries is a myth
We usually assume that countries in the global North provide universal access to water and sanitation services. However, this overlooks persistent gaps in access to such services that are caused by social exclusion, discrimination, and racism. Our new paper draws on case studies to showcase the discrimination experienced by Roma communities, people experiencing homelessness, migrant and refugee populations, among others. These case studies powerfully show that universal access to water and sanitation is a myth. The human rights to water and sanitation are left unrealized for many. The paper argues that we need to acknowledge that disparities are rooted in ongoing neglect, deliberate exclusion, and systemic racism as the basis for developing approaches to service provision that center communities and groups without consistent access.
Two new papers (best read jointly) on menstrual policy making:
Even with menstruation being increasingly addressed in public policies, it remains shrouded in stigma and underlying misogynist attitudes which limit the scope of policies. Across countries, policies focus predominantly on tangible and material outcomes related to menstrual products and sanitation facilities for the ‘hygienic management’ of menstruation. To date, policy-makers seem constrained by the very stigma they seek to tackle, resulting in hesitancy and missed opportunities. They inadvertently perpetuate the very stigma they seek to erase.
The first paper explores what policies actually cover and seeks to explain the myopic focus on tangible outcomes:
'We like things tangible:’ A critical analysis of menstrual hygiene and health policy-making in India, Kenya, Senegal and the United States. DOI: 10.1080/17441692.2021.2011945
The second paper seeks to uncover where policies fall short and identifies persistent stigma as the main constraint:
The persistent power of stigma: A critical review of policy initiatives to break the menstrual silence and advance menstrual literacy. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgph.0000070
New article: Menstruation and Human Rights: Can We Move Beyond Instrumentalization, Tokenism, and Reductionism?
I have contributed an article to a special issue on menstruation and the law. Menstruation is increasingly recognized as a human rights issue. However, many global organizations adopt a reductionist understanding of human rights. They use the frame of dignity but present it in a narrow sense of ensuring privacy and cleanliness, eschewing a more fundamental understanding of dignity as agency and autonomy. They address the socio-cultural dimension of menstruation, but only present culture as restriction and barrier to the realization of human rights, which seems to be driven by Western liberalist understandings. They instrumentalize human rights to advance narrow, technical fixes in the form of menstrual products, hygiene interventions, and sanitation facilities. As a result, human rights framings risk leaving menstrual stigma unaddressed. Against this background, the paper calls for re-envisioning human rights from below to address gender injustices.
New Paper with Chris Bobel: "Bizarre" and "Backward" - Saviorism and Modernity in Representations of Menstrual Beliefs and Practices in the Popular Media
“34 Bizarre Myths about Periods from around the World”... This and many other examples of popular discourse increasingly addresses cultural and religious beliefs and practices related to menstruation. Many such articles lapse into sensationalized or patronizing accounts of menstrual beliefs and practices that disregard and, in some cases, even ridicule cultural and religious traditions--reflecting the neocolonial trinity of victim, savage, and savior that cast the global North as progressive and the global South as regressive. These discursive formulations metaphorically cast women and girls as passive victims of their "savage" culture in need of "saviors" who have the authority and the resources to alleviate their suffering. In doing so, the articles largely fail to understand the complex and diverse meanings of menstrual beliefs and practices and to acknowledge women's and girls' agency. While we appreciate the increased attention to menstruation, as global menstrual community we need to do better to understand the diverse meanings of menstrual practices in their sociocultural, religious, and historical contexts.
Definition of Menstrual Health
We have defined menstrual health through a global collaboration of experts.
Published open access in Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters, menstrual health is defined as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in relation to the menstrual cycle.”
This shared understanding of menstrual health will help us address menstrual needs holistically to support the realization of a range of human rights.
New Paper with Trisha Maharaj: ‘You don’t just do it because someone else said so’: Menstrual practices and women’s agency in the Hindu diaspora of Trinidad
Menstruation matters. And for many it is deeply imbued with socio-cultural meaning and embedded in religious practices. While the current dominant narrative presents menstrual practices as restrictions and often characterizes Hindu women as the oppressed victims of their religion, we seek to complicate this oversimplified narrative. We explore women’s motivations, choices and decisions related to menstrual practices in the Hindu-Trinidadian diaspora. Our findings indicate that the women we interviewed exercise agency in the cognitive, emotional, religious and socio-cultural spheres. Many of them value or accept menstrual practices as part of what it means to be a Hindu woman—motivated by religious observance and/or the desire to be part of a community that upholds tradition. These varied manifestations of women’s agency challenge the understanding of menstrual practices as necessarily-and-always oppressive and call for acknowledging the nuance and complexity of women’s lives.
Socio-economic Rights: Consolidating Progress, Charting Future Directions
I published a chapter in the book A Research Agenda for Human Rights edited by Michael Stohl and Alison Brysk. The field of socio-economic rights has made enormous progress over the last 25 years, which makes it an opportune time for engaging in reflection and self-reflection and contemplating future directions. I argue argues that future research would benefit from focusing on the implementation of human rights and approaching human rights in a more integrated way that furthers the notion of indivisibility. It is time to move past the dichotomies of civil and political rights versus socio-economic rights and the Global South versus the Global North. Socio-economic rights scholarship is also called upon to engage with and respond to some of the defining challenges of our time related to climate change, the global economic system and inequalities.
ICYMI: Recording of the Launch of the Palgrave Handbook of Critical Menstruation Studies now available
New article with Sabrina Kozikis: The Paradox of Framing Water as a Human Right in the United States: An Analysis of Power and Resistance
Many communities across the U.S. struggle to access clean and affordable water, but the U.S. government does not see the right to water as relevant in the domestic sphere. We explore why grassroots organizers and national-level activists use the human rights framework to advocate for access to water in a country that is so hostile toward socio-economic rights. We present out analysis through the lens of different conceptions of power, power within, power with, and power to and find that engaging with human rights conveys a sense of universality, connectedness, collective strength and validation, which provides communities with the power to act and hold governments accountable.
The Palgrave Handbook on Critical Menstruation Studies, which I co-edited, has been published and is available online.
It invites the reader to explore menstruation from nearly every possible angle, including dimensions that you might not yet have considered: the historical, political, embodied, cultural, religious, social, health, economic, artistic, literary and many more. With 72 chapters on more than 1000 pages, the Handbook--the first of its kind--establishes Critical Menstruation Studies as a rich field of research.
The Handbook fills a crucial gap. It exposes myths, fallacies, and false claims. And while it advances the knowledge of the field, it acknowledges that there is a lot we don’t know yet. It is the critical companion for anyone interested in menstruation. For more info see here. For the complete Open Access Handbook see here.
A number of my articles and book chapters on menstruation, the right to water, and the SDGs are forthcoming in 2020/21:
“Bizarre and Backward:” Myth-Busting, Modernity and Saviorism in Representations of Menstrual Beliefs and Practices in the Popular Media, forthcoming in Feminist Formations (with Chris Bobel)
The Paradox of Framing Water as a Human Right in the United States: An Analysis of Power and Resistance, Journal of Human Rights, in press (with Sabrina Kozikis)
The Politics, Promises and Perils of Data: Evidence-Driven Policy and Practice for Menstrual Health, Women's Reproductive Health, in press (with Chris Bobel, Lauren Houghton, Noemie Elhadad, Caitlin Gruer, Vanessa Paranjothy)
Sustainable Development and Social Rights, in: Research Handbook on International Law and Social Rights (edited by Christina Binder et al.), Edward Elgar, in press (with Matheus Hernandez)
The Emergence of "New" Health-Related Human Rights: Recognizing the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation, in: Global Health and Human Rights (ed. by Larry Gostin and Benjamin Mason Meier), Oxford University Press, in press (with Benjamin Mason Meier)
New grant-funded project to assess policy developments on menstrual health
We're embarking on a new research project to assess policy developments on menstrual hygiene and health through the lens of human rights, focusing on India, Kenya, Senegal and the United States. We're particularly interested in exploring whose voices, interests and needs are centered and whose are marginalized in these policies and the processes leading to their adoption, and how this influences the framing of policies both in terms of their scope and the targeted populations.
Menstruation has emerged as a key entry point for current discussions on gender justice recognizing the body as foundational, urgent and politically relevant. This is why menstruation matters: it unites the personal and the political, the intimate and the public, the physiological and the socio-cultural. The course will examine different spheres of life, including health, education, equality in the work place, freedom of religion, and cultural rights. It will pay particular attention to the intersection of gender and other markers of inequalities, including disability, socio-economic status, age, caste, and gender identity.
I will teach this course together with colleagues:
Report Launched at Congressional Briefing: Flushed and Forgotten
Communities across the United States lack basic sanitation, leading to health and environmental crises that largely affect individuals living in poverty, advocates explained in a set of briefings before Congress, organized by Earthjustice to foster attention to this national problem and catalyze solutions.
Sabrina Kozikis, M.A., on the Paradox of the Human Right to Water in the U.S.
Sabrina Kozikis who completed her thesis earlier this year is going to present her research on Water Is a Human Right' - Exploring the Paradox of Framing Water as a Human Right in a Hostile Political Climate as a finalist at the GSAS SynThesis Competition and later in May at the Law & Society Annual Meeting in Washington DC.
Upcoming Events in Spring 2019
Obstetrics & Gynecology Publishes Editorial on Unmet Menstrual Health Needs
It seems like everyone is talking about menstrual health these days. But WHAT and WHO are we missing? My recent editorial in Obstetrics & Gynecology discusses how human rights shine a light on unmet needs and menstruation at the margins.
Graduate Students Complete Their Theses
My graduate students have completed fascinating research projects, including four theses that provide fresh perspectives on current developments in menstrual studies. Congratulations Trisha, Sydney, Tori, Anna and Sabrina!