Did you know? An average menstruator menstruates once a month from the age of 13 to 51, with each period lasting three to seven days. So, throughout 38 years, this equates to 456 periods, or nearly 6.25 years or 2,280 days of bleeding. That is a lot of splurging on pads, tampons, menstrual cups, and other period products. Menstruation not only takes a physical and mental toll but also an economic one.
A survey published in BMC Women's Health found that 1 in 10 college-age women in the United States who menstruate do not have access to menstrual hygiene products. While the survey only asked people who identified as women about their access to menstrual hygiene products, not all people who menstruate—and experience period poverty—identify as women.
Period poverty refers to the inability to buy menstrual products such as pads, tampons, or liners. Many people are forced to use rags, paper towels, toilet paper, or cardboard instead of sanitary products. There are many causes of period poverty like gender inequality, inflated prices of period products, inaccessibility, low per capita income, stigmas and taboos, and so much more.
The tampon tax, known as the “pink tax,” is named for the frequent marketing of the colour pink toward women. Although some countries have lifted the tax on period products as luxury items, others continue to use it as a form of gender-based discrimination. Ending the tax worldwide will not single-handedly make period products affordable — too many people cannot pay for them at all and are often torn between purchasing food or menstrual supplies. And in India, only 12% of menstruators have access to sanitary products, leaving the rest to use unsafe materials like rags and sawdust as an alternative, the Indian ministry of health reported.
A survey has also highlighted that almost a quarter of U.S. students struggle to access period products and Covid-19 has only exacerbated this gap. In a 2019 survey, they found that one in five teens had experienced period poverty. In the second study released in May 2021, of the 1,010 teenagers they spoke to, 23% said they’ve struggled to afford period products and 16% said that they’ve chosen to buy period products over food or clothes as a result of the pandemic.
Period Poverty isn't merely a financial problem. It's a matter of human rights. 62% of students believe that the world is not set up for them to handle their periods with complete confidence, and 58% believe that unfavourable connections with periods have a bad impact on them.
Speaking from a student's perspective, educational institutions need to provide students regular access to period products in-campus and spread awareness about menstrual hygiene. In a much broader sense, periods are not a choice, it’s a biological process thus taxing menstruators is obscene. Pink tax and other luxury taxes should be abolished and period products should be available at subsidized rates for the low-income group. Together we all can work towards menstrual equity and change this cycle.
Image source: Jeannie Phan Illustration Blog