We need free sanitary products, period

Cáit Caden

Free period products are not available in public places unlike other necessities such as soap and toilet paper.

Public bathrooms are nobody’s favourite ally when it comes to hygiene. However, despite the assortment of germs usually found in them, public bathrooms offer refuge to those on the brink of an accident, whether induced by a long car journey or those who need to break the seal after one drink too many. For women about to bleed onto their clothes because of an unexpected period though, public bathrooms offer no sanctuary.

It is not a requirement in Ireland for toilets in public places to provide free sanitary products, yet other resources used to maintain good hygiene are. These include toilet paper, soap and water. Why is providing tampons and sanitary pads a step too far for some establishments? It could be possible that some believe that because the time at which a woman gets her period can be accurately estimated then the onus is on her to be prepared at all times. If this is the reasoning behind the lack of free sanitary products, then people must always carry with them their own supply of toilet paper as they are surely bound to use a public bathroom at some stage during the day. If not, then go see your GP.

Maybe it’s down to the belief that if they were provided then they would be stolen. If this is the case, I defy any student to say that they have not stolen toilet paper on occasion when the funds were running low and no one batted an eyelid to this societal norm.

The lack of sanitary products in public establishments can be deemed a sexist issue. Periods are a natural occurrence which need specific toiletries to be managed. Without which, severe embarrassment and consequentially wearing unhygienic clothing would be the result. These are the exact reasons public bathrooms were set up in the first place: to allow members of society to relieve their bladders without having an incident. Why then does society have such an attitude of alienation over blood than it does with urine?

It is not just those who did not bring enough sanitary products in their bag or the girl who got her period unexpectedly for the first time that are the only victims of the tampon and pad plight. Period poverty is a growing problem in Ireland. Various groups have been set up nationwide to tackle this issue. The Homeless Period is one of these groups which encourages people to donate fresh tampons to those who simply cannot afford them. The average woman spends €132 a year on sanitary products. 50 per cent of Irish females between the ages of 12 and 19 cannot afford this according to Plan International.

A Bloody Good Period is a second advocacy group which aims to help one of the most vulnerable demographics experiencing period poverty due to a lack of free sanitary products. This demographic is refugee women. Particularly those in direct provision who must rely on just over €20 a week.

Pharmacies must also take some of the responsibility for period poverty in Ireland as they have a supply of moon cups in stock which they could provide to the public for free. This product can be used instead of countless tampons and not only save money but help the environment as well.

Cáit Caden 

Image Credit: Orla Dwyer