Scottish Parliament unanimously approved a bill to allow free access to products used during menstruation, setting an example by becoming the first-ever country to allow free access to period products. Legislation approved the free availability of tampons and menstrual pads at zero cost in schools, universities, and other public buildings in Scotland 121 voted to approve the law and end the ‘Period Poverty’ (A term used for defining struggle to pay for sanitary products). Data revealed that almost 20% of women in Scotland had been dealing with period poverty. This step would cost around Inr 86 crore every year.
Although Scotland is the first country in the hopeful world, I wanted to believe that it won’t be the last one.
The government of India has taken steps to tackle women’s hygiene and for that, they have regulated many schemes. Menstrual Hygiene scheme is one of the schemes that work around promoting menstrual hygiene focusing on adult girls aging 10 to 19. In India, there are 355 million menstruating women, almost 30% of the population. 70 percent of mothers with menstruating daughters considered menstruation as dirty and 71 percent of adolescent girls remained unaware of menstruation till menarche. A 2014 UNICEF report pointed out that in Tamil Nadu, 79 percent of girls and women were unaware of menstrual hygiene practices. The percentage was 66% in Uttar Pradesh, 56% in Rajasthan, and 51% in West Bengal.
The Ministry of Health had been supplying menstrual pads for a relatively low cost at 1 rs per pad, a pack of six for 6 rs. The current use of sanitary napkins is still at 10-11%, wherein the use of sanitary napkins in Developed countries like the USA is 73-90%. Women living in the urban area didn’t have any hurdles changing to sanitary napkins as compared to rural areas.
The concern in the rural area for use of sanitary napkins associated with taboo and stigma attached to the impurity of women during those days. The first and foremost concern of women in rural areas is the unavailability of the dustbin to throw the napkins, as the stigmatization of protection from evil eyes, a girl must avoid throwing them in the public garbage tins used by other people. Some taboos coerced around 23 million women every year to drop from school as soon as they start bleeding. On papers, the reason that inked were lack of functional toilets, lack of awareness amongst the teenagers, and non-availability of sanitary napkins.
The supply of sanitary napkins under the schemes is irregular according to workers of the ASHA foundation. Women who are motivated to use sanitary napkins are discouraged because of the unavailability of sanitary napkins. Awareness programs aren’t that effective as well. Mostly the work of awareness comes with peer to peer conversation, and women in India are still uncomfortable talking about the sex or their periods openly. In my opinion, the government should promote and educate the use of menstrual cups and supply them on a large scale instead of sanitary napkins. Menstrual Cups last around 10 to 15 years and their cost is relatively lower than sanitary napkins. From irregular supply to environmental reasons, menstrual cups would resolve all.