Does Period Poverty Exist in Developed Countries?

 Period poverty seems like a phenomenon for “underdeveloped” or “developing countries” – a curse that the “powerful” countries of the world need not endure. Despite the fact that most developed countries have stable systems of menstrual education and an abundance of period products, accessibility still remains a huge problem in many parts of the “developed” world.

Countries like the United Kingdom, Slovakia, Australia, and some states in the United States still levy a “Tampon Tax,”. Tampon Tax is a value-added tax levied on tampons and other period products. A tampon tax is especially problematic because it should be considered a basic necessities and receive the tax exemption status granted to other products like wedding apparel, briefcases, ski boots which is egregious.  

In North America, the average cost of a packet of pads and tampons are $5.84 and $7.62 respectively. However, the average cost of a basic meal is $2.94. In the USA, most states charge tampon tax except 9 states that have dropped this tax. Moreover, tampon tax is a debatable subject for those who can afford sanitary protection. A recent Huffington Post article highlighted the issue of teens in the U.S. unable to afford tampons or sanitary napkins. Girls in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, for example, miss school for up to a week during their menstrual cycle.

The status in the UK isn’t great either. A recent survey by Plan International UK has been making the rounds and the numbers are shocking. 1 in 10 are unable to afford any sanitary protection in the UK. Campaigns, like #ThePeriodPotential, are persuading Education Secretary Justine Greening to introduce access to free sanitary products in all schools in the UK. But, the Plan International survey has brought about a lot of awareness in the UK amongst the masses. Many local food banks and homeless shelters like The Trussell Trust and The Homeless Period provide sanitary products for women in need.

Menstruation is not the first thing that comes to mind when speaking of poverty. Yet, it is a horrible consequence of a global problem. Unfortunately, period poverty has been neglected for decades due to stigmas and taboos. However, organisations like Freedom4girls, DaysForGirls, and A Woman’s Worth, amongst others, are trying to bring about a change. Rome wasn’t built in a day; a period poverty-free world won’t be either. But the conversation has begun – and it must continue.

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