The Government’s Role in Resolving Period Parity

Menstruators around the world, especially those from rural backgrounds, are not in a position to take care of their menstrual health and hygiene with the adequate means. This includes a lack of awareness about the utilisation of period products and the biology of menstruation. Globally, 500 million menstruators face these difficulties. In India alone, under 50% of the women utilise sanitary pads. It is crucial to address the stigma around menstruation, get involved in policy making and raise awareness to improve these statistics. Still, without an appropriate level of government intervention, there may not be a visible improvement in the life of menstruators.

Due to the innumerable problems faced by menstruators, several schemes have emerged on a national and international level. The movements which improved access to period products were extremely striking. Both in developed and developing countries, the aims were similar – to provide these products at subsidised rates or free of charge. Directed toward adolescent girls, fund reallocation was planned. These movements were led both in the UK as well as in India. Currently, in the UK, the PHS group is responsible for supplying sanitary products and in India the same is done by ASHA. The end goal for both these schemes is to abolish stigma, provide menstrual products and most of all make menstruators self-sufficient.

The scheme implemented by the Indian government was primarily directed towards adolescent menstruators in rural areas, providing them with products, and training them on how to make them. Unfortunately, a study conducted by the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in 2018, revealed that the scheme was inefficient with the distribution of napkin packs. It also failed to address how it would educate rural women, a crucial step considering that this could be an entirely new product for many menstruators in that area. 

The UK’s program was more focused on adequate provision of menstrual products in academic institutions, to ensure that students have access to menstrual products, free of charge. Implementation of the scheme was highly encouraged by the government for all schools and colleges.

The US too implemented a scheme to promote the provision of menstrual products in women’s prisons in Arizona. It planned to increase the current number of tampons allotted to each inmate, from 12 to an adequate number. A menstruator approximately uses five pads a day, six times a week, needing 30 pads per cycle; 12 doesn’t meet the requirement. Due to the restricted access to sanitary products, they relied on unsanitary solutions, which increased their risk of contracting vaginal infections. State representative, Athena Salman, took the motion forward and enlisted numerous women’s rights advocates to testify before an all-male congressional committee. The bill was later shot down due to “logistical issues” in the prisons. It was supposed to introduce a free flow of sanitary products in women’s prisons but instead just increased the number of pads to 30 per person.  A more diverse congressional committee could have worked in the representative’s favour. Such candidates would have been sensitive to the concerns. Though the scheme did not achieve its intended aim, its partial dismissal was able to encourage thousands of Americans to advocate for women’s rights in prison.

From a more widespread approach, Menstrual Health and Hygiene (MHH) programmes have been developed and incorporated into multiple organisations and institutions in many countries.  Such programmes prepare young menstruators for overcoming obstacles throughout their lives, whether it’s a health issue, child marriage or gender-based violence. MHH is a crucial component in fulfilling menstruators’ rights, a key target of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. UNICEF makes the value of collaborative action clear in making gradual progress in the plan by communicating that schools assign high priority to MHM actions during their virtual conferences. This scheme focuses on adequate resource allocation in schools, prioritising relevant policies and developing their guidelines in the best interest of menstruators across the globe. It also seeks to advance MHM in school activities, create an adequate budget, assign responsibility to the government to implement the scheme in more schools, and integrate MHM into the schooling system to ensure inclusivity. Progress has been made regarding these five objectives, and MHM is now a widely recognised public health matter.

The various schemes discussed in the article have accelerated the journey to equal and sufficient sanitation for all menstruators in need. Each one was different, ranging from the scale; national to worldwide to the audience; prisoners to rural menstruators. India is still a country with inadequate menstrual facilities, so programmes targeting problems such as provision and training on making sanitary products can be beneficial. Conversely, policies centred around education and improving current laws dealing with MHM can be seen more often in developed countries. Such policies will only work if the government is responsive to the concerns of menstruators. 

Our collective responsibility is to ensure that we continue moving closer to that goal. A central way to make progress is by introducing more such schemes and laws targeted specifically towards the individual problems of a menstruating community, to better their standards of living. Voting for parties and individuals with similar policies in our own country and keeping track of all schemes introduced related to MHM globally allows us to support this progress.

Article by Prathna Anand, Tara Karni Bajaj, and others from the REDefine Team

Featured Artwork by Saanve Jatia

White, Kaila. “After Backlash, Arizona Prison Raises Minimum Number of Free Pads for Incarcerated Women.” The Arizona Republic, The Republic | Azcentral.com, 15 Feb. 2018, https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona/2018/02/13/after-backlash-arizona-prison-raises-minimum-number-free-pads-incarcerated-women/335698002/. 

Held, Amy. “Arizona Department of Corrections Changes Sanitary Pad Policy Following Backlash.” NPR, NPR, 16 Feb. 2018, https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/02/15/586134335/arizona-department-of-corrections-changes-sanitary-pad-policy-following-backlash. 

government of India. “Menstrual Hygiene Scheme(MHS) :: National HealthMission.”

Nhm.gov.in, 2022, nhm.gov.in/index1.php?lang=1&level=3&sublinkid=1021&lid=391.

Jurga, Ina. Ina Jurga International Coordinator Menstrual Hygiene Day POLICY LANDSCAPE for MENSTRUAL HYGIENE & HEALTH.

2019.Patkar, Archana. “Policy and Practice Pathways to Addressing Menstrual Stigma and Discrimination.” The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Menstruation Studies, 2020, pp. 485–509, 10.1007/978-981-15-0614-7_38. Accessed 11 Oct. 2021.

Author: The REDefine Campaign

A group of students trying to spread the message and bring out of the shell the taboo topics of Menstrual and Sexual Health. The REDefine Campaign is a campaign devoted to helping the population of India understand the key parts of female's life that is known as puberty. This blog is designed to show our progress, reports as well as learnings and new experiences along our journey. We hope that one day this world that we live in will willingly and openly not only talk, but give advice and spread awareness of the bodily cycle that is puberty. We do hope that you learn something along with us, and please spread the word. For any questions please do not be afraid to comment and/or email us. Come along with us on our journey!

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