Engendering the Right to Work in International Law: Recognising Menstruation and Menopause in Paid Work

Colussi, S., Hill, E. & Baird, M. (2023) Engendering the Right to Work in International Law: Recognising Menstruation and Menopause in Paid Work. University of Oxford Human Rights Hub Journal, pp. 1-40

40 Pages Posted: 28 Oct 2023

See all articles by Sydney Colussi

Sydney Colussi

The University of Sydney

Elizabeth Hill

The University of Sydney

Marian Baird

University of Sydney Business School

Date Written: October 26, 2023

Abstract

It is widely accepted in international law that pregnancy and parenthood should not prevent women from exercising their human right to work. Across various international conventions, special labour rights and protections have been enshrined for pregnancy, childbirth, and childrearing to ‘engender’ the right to work and remedy workplace inequalities that arise in relation to these reproductive issues. However, other reproductive (and post-reproductive) issues, specifically menstruation and menopause, have not received adequate attention in international law despite their direct relationship to gender inequality in paid work. In this article, we argue this narrow approach to the reproductive body needs to be revisited. If the right to work is to be properly ‘engendered’, then menstruation and menopause must be acknowledged as important processes that, like pregnancy and parenthood, shape the capability of ciswomen and all people who experience menstruation and menopause to realise this right. Applying Fredman’s substantive equality framework to these specific issues, this article develops a critical feminist reading of the right to work in two key human rights conventions, the International Covenant on Economic,Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
and the Convention to Eliminate AllForms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), to argue for
an expanded understanding of the reproductive body and its significance for workers over the life course.

Keywords: right to work, menstruation, menopause, feminism, gender equality, substantive equality, human rights, international law, reproductive body

Suggested Citation

Colussi, Sydney and Hill, Elizabeth and Baird, Marian, Engendering the Right to Work in International Law: Recognising Menstruation and Menopause in Paid Work (October 26, 2023). Colussi, S., Hill, E. & Baird, M. (2023) Engendering the Right to Work in International Law: Recognising Menstruation and Menopause in Paid Work. University of Oxford Human Rights Hub Journal, pp. 1-40, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4613359

Sydney Colussi (Contact Author)

The University of Sydney ( email )

Sydney, NSW
Australia

Elizabeth Hill

The University of Sydney ( email )

Marian Baird

University of Sydney Business School ( email )

Sydney
Australia

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