With increasing awareness about menstrual hygiene, we realize menstrual equality is truly never accounted for, even to this day. In 2018, the Indian Government considered branded tampons and sanitary pads as luxury items with imposing of 12% tax. This immediately sparked a nation-wide campaign to get the “Lahu ki Lagan” tax revoked. With more than 400,000 signature, the Indian Government scrapped off this tax. However, many other countries are not this fortunate. Period tax is still being collected by many countries without any consideration to period poverty.
People without financial aides, trans and non-binary people, people with disabilities, people without homes, and people who are incarcerated face many more barriers. This limits them from having a safe and healthy period, accessing health information, and finding affordable products and services to meet their needs. Our motivation should be to uplift and center marginalized voices in various ways that we can.
“Menstrual equality is a gateway issue for feminists. We must have laws and policies that ensure menstrual products are safe and affordable and available for those who need them. This will ensure in formation of a fully equitable and participatory society, .”
– Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, Writer and Activist in her book “Periods Gone Public: Taking a Stand for Menstrual Equity”
On an average, a woman goes through approximately 7 years of periods in a lifetime. The period is one of the main reasons why most girls drop out of education in India as soon as they start with puberty. Women put in loads of thought, money, and effort into this natural bodily function. While menstruation is so common a topic, people whisper about it, laugh it off, or find it very uncomfortable to even discuss.
Every woman should have access to menstrual products affordably, easily and without shame. There is a huge segment of women who still are unable to afford these basic necessities items.
As per the World Health Organisation, elevated rates of stress and anxiety are the main psychological impact of COVID-19. The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown are stressful and your body will react in different ways to the pressure. Thus, women are facing irregular periods in times like this.
— UN Women Australia (@UNWomenAust) January 13, 2019
Innovations to battle Periods:
With the growing menstrual equality agenda, many organizations have come up with Free tampon vending machines. These installations in schools and public washrooms give instant and discreet access to sanitary products. The new range of products like menstrual cups, eco-friendly pads is catering to the needs of women in an environmentally friendly way.
Innovations need not be high-tech but rather culturally appropriate, sustainable, and come from communities themselves. This way we can be more inclusive of their needs and concerns.
Menstruation still remains unmentioned and ignored. Even some ads regarding sanitary pads show blood as a blue liquid. Something so natural is so disassociated from how it actually is.
— Rituparna Chatterjee (@MasalaBai) May 23, 2020
There will be blood:
Menstrual Equity is much bigger than the removal of the period tax. It is about continuing the conversations about period health, affordability, product access, safety, and education.
Not everyone experiences periods equally. Being inclusive and collaborative is the dire need of the hour. We can improve menstrual health by collaborating with various stakeholders. The stakeholders’ list must include people who menstruate, designers, engineers, companies, non-profits, and policymakers.
Furthermore, the need of the hour is to focus on reducing shame and stigma, reforming inequitable policies, creating a diversity of educational materials, and more.
Taboo and Stigma:
“Aunt Flow. On the Rage. The Curse.” – these are some of the euphemisms in usage around the world for menstruation/period. Some of them are funny. But they have a more somber side too since they reinforce the idea that period is connected with shame. It has become a source of humiliation and oppression.
“Those living with HIV face a double stigma when it comes to menstrual health management, Lack of availability and affordability of menstrual products. This makes women and girls become more vulnerable to exploitation and HIV. When you’re living with HIV, you always think your blood is infectious. This makes you afraid of talking to anyone about menstruation”
-Laura Thuo, from International Community of Women Living with HIV.
We have already come a long way ahead with combating menstrual stigma related issues. Thus, it is important to speak up and take action than to accept this stigma. This will aid in spreading awareness about menstrual equality. Menstruation is not a reason for denying girls and women equality in any aspect of life. Periods are a natural occurrence. Moreover, the way we address issues related to menstruation needs to change radically- with one step at a time.
“The culture of silence around menstruation has become even more evident in the COVID pandemic. Millions of women and girls from economically disadvantaged sections of the society are finding it difficult to manage their periods safely, hygienically and with dignity,”
-Yasmin Ali Haque, UNICEF India Representative
Some international organizations such as WSSCC have started initiatives such as menstrual waste workshops in West and Central Africa. Also, they have promoted toilet designs that can handle menstrual material waste in India. Other organizations are not waiting on the government to take action as they are providing young women menstrual products in an effort to make them stay in school. With us fighting a pandemic, it is even more crucial to be more considerate of every existing problem like these.