Most estimates put the cost of a women’s period at $18,171 across their lifetime, an economic burden which over 50% of the population has to bear. In light of Scotland starting to pass a bill to make tampons and pads free to anyone who needs them, it seems fitting to raise the conversation on how more should be done to support women with periods across the globe.
Scotland is set to be the first country in the world to offer free universal access to period products. On Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, the Period Products (free provision) Bill passed through the first of three stages in the Scottish Parliament by a vote of 112-0, with one abstention.
Yesterday was International Women’s Day, a day aiming to help nations worldwide eliminate discrimination against women and focused on helping women gain full and equal participation in global development. Yet, ironically, what is so disheartening about this news story from Scotland, is that it has been perceived as such a radical and progressive step. Surely, in a world with such momentous advances towards gender equality, a seemingly straightforward and relatively simple law for governments to enact should be more widespread and normalized.
There is an immense financial cost of having a period. A price to remain clean, healthy and out of pain, simply for being born with a uterus. The cost of periods is not solely made up of tampons and pads, but also painkillers, heating pads, new underwear and comforting objects (the inevitable chocolate craving). All of these need to be bought every single month. In addition, a YouGov poll found that one-third of people had taken a day off of work for period pain, in spite of 39% of U.S. workers getting no sick leave at all.
Period poverty is a term used to describe those who are unable to afford period products. It is pervasive in U.S schools and students who lack the resources to basic menstrual hygiene often skip classes, thus denying them equal learning opportunities. It also comes as no surprise that some of the most-requested items at food banks and homeless shelters are hygiene products such as tampons and sanitary pads. A law such as the one in Scotland would help to combat this unacceptable and avoidable social problem that blights the U.S.
UConn itself has taken some praiseworthy actions, with the Undergraduate Student Government passing a bill way back in February 2018 that provides free tampons and pads in bathrooms on campus. The bill designated up to $20,000 to cover the cost of products and dispensers for the initial spring 2017 semester. Governments should take example from the progressive, modern changes made at universities and high schools to enact equality at all levels.
Bigger change appears to be imminent as increased awareness of the blatantly discriminatory tampon tax catalysed protests across the globe. Tampons and pads are essential to millions, yet 34 states still impose sales tax on them due to their classification as a “luxury good.” If you have a period, menstrual products are not optional and typically, necessary items such as food and medicine are exempt from sale taxes. Even the United Nations in 2013 declared that access to “proper sanitation and menstrual hygiene facilities” is a basic human right.
In July 2018, Connecticut changed state policy, exempting feminine hygiene products and baby diapers from state sales tax. Something State Representative Kelly Juleson-Scopino rightfully called the “fair” thing to do. Hopefully, these progressive steps in the menstrual equity movement combined with the momentum from Scotland’s bill change can be made on a national level in the U.S.
The act in Scotland is a poignant reminder that more needs to be done to address the economic and social inequalities women face simply for the body they are born with. The bill should serve as an inspiration to lawmakers across the globe. At the end of the day governments need to cater to and address something that affects nearly 50% of the population.
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Camélia Lequeux is a contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.