Around the world, girls are less likely to graduate from secondary school than boys. In fact, according to UNESCO worldwide, 131 million girls are out of school — and 100 million of those are girls of high school age. And while there are many reasons for this, periods play a major role. Periods are the #1 reason girls miss school in developing countries. One reason for this is that over 1.2 billion women across the world do not have access to basic sanitation, making their periods a monumental challenge every month.
Due to the high cost of period products this issue disproportionately affects women and girls which limits their ability to compete on an equal platform to their fellow pupils. Currently there are about 15 million children in the United States – 21% of all children – who live in families with incomes below the federal poverty threshold. As Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, vice president for development of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law, says “These low-income families are sometimes forced to choose between spending their last $10 — the price of a 42-pack of name-brand heavy flow pads at CVS — on menstrual care or on food.”
Currently there are three states that have passed period legislation. They are New York, Illinois, and California. New York City was the first city in the world to pass period legislation. In July of 2016, championed by Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, New York passed the legislation package 1122-A, 1123-A and 1128-A. When asked about his support for this legislation package New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said, ““There should be no stigma around something as fundamental as menstruation. These laws recognize that feminine hygiene products are a necessity – not a luxury. … As a father, husband and feminist, I am proud to sign these bills into law.” His support of this legislation was widely praised. Assembly member Michael Blake stated, "With the signing of these three bills, Mayor de Blasio is codifying equality and equity for girls and women in schools, shelters and the criminal justice system. No longer will a regularly occurring, natural event create an undue financial burden on low-income women or cause our girls to miss school. I applaud the Mayor and the Council Members for leading through example and showing the world how the City cares for all its residents by providing them with the necessary hygiene products they need to feel clean, healthy and prepared for their day."
In January of 2019 a new California law passed which requires low-income middle and high schools to stock at least half of their bathrooms with feminine hygiene products. This law addresses the correlation between those of low income families and the issue of period poverty as many of those suffering most from this issue belong to those families.
However, right now there are only 3 states that have passed this legislation providing free period products in schools. In fact 35 states still have the Pink Tax which is the tax on menstrual hygiene products. It is imperative to keep advocating for lawmakers to repeal this tax and pass legislation to provide free period products in schools. Ultimately, Period poverty is a form of institutionalized discrimination that causes women most at risk to suffer - in cultures that already marginalize women, in homes that struggle to survive below the poverty level. Women’s rights are human rights, and include the right to be educated and to earn a fair and equal wage. The right to be treated equally transcends gender. Our biology is simply who we are; it cannot be permitted to limit in any way who we can become as equal members of our society.
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