On Tuesday (June 21), New York City became the first city to pass legislation making free menstrual-hygiene products mandatory in schools, prisons, and shelters. According to NYMag, “the city will budget for tampons and pads just like it does for toilet paper and hand soap.”
“Tampons and pads are not currently covered by public-assistance programs and some school-aged girls stay home or use products longer than they should when they get their periods. Women in prisons face rationing and degrading treatment from corrections officers.The legislation was preceded by a pilot project at a high school in Corona, Queens, which was expanded to 25 schools in Queens and the Bronx. Emergency tampons and pads are already available in public middle and high schools — usually at the nurse’s office — but the bills would require them to be in the bathrooms. Dispensers will be installed in the girls’ bathrooms at 800 schools, reaching 300,000 students at an initial cost of $3.7 million and $1.9 million annually thereafter.”
Enacting the bill is especially important for young women who are low-income and women in prison. According to a press release by NYC Council, inaccessibility to menstrual-hygiene products is “associated with health and psycho-social issues.”
While toilet paper is regularly distributed, poor women are left to their own devices to find tampons and menstrual hygiene products, particularly those in shelters. Prisons regularly lack sanitary supplies, cap the amount of hygiene products distributed to inmates, and a number do not provide any free female hygiene products.
Mayor Bill De Blasio has yet to enact the bills into law, but has voiced support, stating that “tampons and pads aren’t luxuries, but necessities.”