The negative stigma that surrounds the word “period” is consistently reinforced according to societal standards. Yet, having a period is not something dirty or negative. It is one of the many biological “luxuries” of being a female. Or at least that’s what some say.
Until 2015, the Canadian Government considered all menstrual hygiene products to be non-essential or luxury items. This begs the question, should feminine hygiene products be considered a right or a luxury?
Today, women and girls around the world do not have equal opportunity to be educated on the female reproductive system, nor do they have the ability to afford the products that women need to protect themselves during their monthly cycle.
With menstrual hygiene products costing approximately eight to twelve dollars a month, this expense adds up quickly.
Despite the consistent debate on the price of these products, the price that women are forced to pay without them is even more striking. Humiliation, unsanitary alternatives, and the destruction of yet another set of panties should not be a monthly concern or expense to women. Yet, the debate continues.
Women’s rights are also involved in this conversation, as governments and companies are being accused of “sexism” for profiting off of women due to a biological, unpreventable part of the female existence.
According the the Canadian Menstruators website, a campaign which worked toward the removal of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on menstrual hygiene products in Canada, “the taxing of essential and necessary products used exclusively by women is unfair and discriminatory. It unfairly disadvantages women soley because of our reproductive role.”
With other hygiene products such as toilet paper being provided for free in public spaces, could there be some truth to this accused form of discrimination?
There have been positive steps taken toward addressing this concern in Canada, such as removing the GST from menstrual hygiene products in 2015. However, this initiative must continue until females around the world can comfortably gain access to these products through alternatives such as higher wage compensation or government subsidization.
Of course, there are also legitimate reasons and arguments against providing menstrual hygiene products for free. For example, both males and females having to purchase other non-essential hygiene products.
Yet, as it is not considered socially acceptable to bleed through your pants, women seem to be at a loss from each end of the spectrum, especially those who cannot afford the luxury of feminine hygiene products.
This only encourages those women to turn to un-safe and unhealthy forms of menstruation protection.
According to an article in the Toronto Star, homeless women resort to transforming “a wad of tissue or toilet paper into a homemade tampon.”
Women in the program at Sistering, a 24/7 women’s drop-in centre in Toronto explain how they would use anything from “toilet tissue and socks, to newspaper and cotton balls, when they didn’t have money or any other way to access pads and tampons.”
As governments continue to ignore the affects of considering menstrual products a luxury, women turn to dangerous methods of period protection, putting themselves at risk to Toxic Shock Syndrome and other ailments.
“The fight for equality and justice for all Canadians is far from over,” say the Canadian Menstruators.
In honour of Menstrual Hygiene Day (May 28th), ROUSE Magazine is proud to announce that for every share of this article, we will donate a package of menstrual hygiene products to those who struggle to afford these “luxuries.”
*Promotion ends May 29th.