Why Menstrual Equity
Menstrual equity refers to the affordability, accessibility and safety of menstrual products. Individuals who menstruate have a right to care for their periods affordably, easily and with dignity. Jennifer Weiss Wolf, vice president at Brennan Center for Justice and author of Periods Gone Public, coined the term “Menstrual Equity” in 2015 to use at the policy level. Since then, the movement has exploded. We join with advocates across the country who are fighting for legislation that would put menstrual products into the hands of those who need them most.
Every day, menstruators throughout New Jersey do not have access to the products they need to be healthy, to be able to work and study, to participate in daily life without stigma. Policymakers have long neglected the needs of menstruating individuals, and the absence of laws dealing with this one bodily function is telling. Menstruation is marginalized. It is stigmatized. Products such as toilet paper and paper towels are mandated in public restrooms and available for free, but period products used by more than half the population every month are not.
Lack of government policy and regulation have exacerbated inequities: Menstrual products are not uniformly accessible in public schools. Prisons and jails often have inadequate supplies. Public health benefits do not cover them. Those on public assistance are forced to choose between buying food or menstrual products. They resort to using rags, old socks or newspapers to care for their periods.
It’s time for this injustice to be addressed. It’s time for laws that will ensure equitable access to menstrual products for all. It's time for manufacturers to commit to using safe product ingredients.
It’s time for New Jersey to be a leader.
It’s time for Equality, Period.
To achieve menstrual equity for all menstruating individuals, menstrual products must be readily available in all public spaces — schools, shelters and prisons.
To date, only six states have passed legislation providing free menstrual products in public schools. These bills provide menstrual product to grades 6-12 in one half of their schools' bathrooms. In one of the few studies conducted regarding the issue of period poverty, Harris Analytics, commissioned by Thinx and Period.org, found that approximately 84% of menstruating students have missed class time or skipped school due to lack of access to menstrual products. One in five teens in the U.S. has struggled to afford period products or was not able to purchase them at all. While the ability to access menstrual products primarily affects menstruating students in low income communities, this study found that students across all demographic groups reported a lack of access to menstrual products.
When menstruating individuals miss school due to their lack of access to menstrual product, it is a form of discrimination and a blatant display of inequality of opportunity and education.
Maryland is the only state in the union that has passed a bill requiring tampons and pads be made available to individuals in shelters and homeless students free of charge.
Homeless individuals cannot afford menstrual products, yet they are generally not available in shelters or transitional housing. Soap, water and showering facilities are scarce, so menstruating individuals are forced to use products longer than recommended, increasing the risk for infection. Often, newspapers, paper towels and rags become makeshift and unsanitary menstrual products
Thirteen states have passed legislation requiring facilities to provide incarcerated individuals with menstrual products. Even with this legislation, inferior quality of products or limited quantities have been imposed, forcing prisoners to bargain or beg to satisfy their most basic hygiene needs. This creates a power imbalance and forces incarcerated individuals into dangerous and dehumanizing situations.