The Fight for Menstrual Equity in the United States
Adapted from ‘Forcing Immigrant Girls to Bleed Through Their Underwear is Cruel, Degrading, and Dangerous’ by Jennifer Weiss-Wolf from Newsweek. Article available at: https://www.newsweek.com/forcing-immigrant-girls-bleed-through-their-underwear-cruel-degrading-dangerous-opinion-1457040
Anyone who has been following the news in the past several months is aware that large groups of migrants attempting to make their way into the United States have been detained at the American border. Multiple states were recently engaged in a lawsuit against the Trump administration as a result of the inhospitable conditions to which these migrants have been exposed.
The ongoing detention of migrants at the American border has had serious implications for many aspects of health, including menstrual hygiene. In one detention facility, it was reported that girls were given limited access to sanitary products and restricted in their ability to shower or procure a fresh change of clothes. Restricting the access of these migrant women and girls to menstrual products exposes them to serious health risks, including toxic shock or infection.
Many activists across the globe have begun to fight for menstrual equity – for the right of all menstruating individuals to access period products, as well as menstrual education and care. Several U.S. states have endorsed this agenda by mandating that schools provide free menstrual products in washrooms, and even more have passed laws requiring these products be available for incarcerated women. In 2018, the bipartisan FIRST STEP Act was enacted, and requires that federal correctional facilities provide incarcerated individuals with access to menstrual products. Many steps have taken the fight for menstrual equity a step further by removing the sales tax from period products. Legal campaigns across the continental United States are working to achieve this equity for all menstruating individuals.
By restricting migrants’ access to menstrual products and hygiene, an inevitable natural process is being used to shame and manipulate vulnerable populations. In the United States and across the globe, the legal framework for menstrual product access must be strengthened so that every individual is able to experience their period as comfortably and hygienically as possible, free from stigma and discrimination.