Tampons in the mail? Just the beginning of the change we need
Women pressuring T.J. Shope, a Republican Arizona state representative, to push forward a bill that would provide free and unlimited feminine hygiene products to female inmates in Arizona’s state prison are sending him — what else? — tampons and pads.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Athena Salman, was stalled over the weekend by Shope, because the Department of Corrections is currently revising its policy.
While it seems that almost any aspect of women’s health, especially reproductive health, is always up for national debate, one would think that when it comes to such basic health care for women, aka half of the world’s population, people would be in agreement: Women should have access to tampons and sanitary napkins when they have their periods.
But in 2018 America, too many women are still being denied their dignity — often for economic reasons — during a monthly, natural bodily function, and it’s an issue that affects women in and outside the nation’s prison system.
In Arizona, female prisoners in state and local institutions are allowed 12 free pads each month, and must either ask an officer or pay for any additional supplies. To make matters worse, female prisoners can only possess 24 pads at a time, and there are no free tampons. According to Mother Jones, women in Arizona state prisons would have to work 27 hours to earn the money for a box of tampons. And as any woman who has ever menstruated can tell you, hygiene products are not created equal. Not only is 12 a completely inadequate number of free pads, but having to pay for tampons — which allow for greater freedom of movement and comfort for many women — is appalling.
Thousands of marginalized American women, especially those who live in poverty, who are homeless, or incarcerated, are unable to afford feminine hygiene products, despite it being a billion-dollar industry in America.
To make sanitary products even more inaccessible, about 40 states in the United States (including New York) slap them with a sales tax — a cost that products deemed “necessities,” such as groceries, are exempt from in many states. This is known as the “tampon tax,” something Canada has managed to eliminate, while campaigns to get rid of it are underway in the United Kingdom and Australia.
Even the United Nations recognizes menstrual hygiene as a public-health and human rights issue, with poor menstrual hygiene being linked to a host of health issues, from cervical cancer to infections when dirty cloths are used in place of sanitary napkins. Jyoti Sanghera, chief of the Human Rights and Economic and Social Issues Section, said the “stigma around menstruation and menstrual hygiene is a violation of several human rights, most importantly of the right to human dignity, that must be overcome.”
The lack of action on this pressing issue for women’s health amounts to a staggering failure to formulate adequate public policy.
“I can’t imagine something more uncomfortable than not having the menstrual products you need for your period,” Salman said on Facebook. “So my heart goes out to these women.”
Even though the Federal Bureau of Prisons announced last year that female inmates in their facilities would be guaranteed free menstrual products, less than 10% of incarcerated women actually stand to benefit from the policy, because the majority of female prisoners are housed in state and local prisons.
States like Maryland and Nebraska have introduced legislation to tackle the disparity between men and women’s access to the health care and personal hygiene products they need. Although the majority of inmates are men, the population of female inmates has been steadily growing for decades. According to the Correctional Association of New York, an organization that has monitored conditions in the state’s prisons since 1846, and which wrote the report “Reproductive Injustice,” the US women’s prison population increased by nearly 900% between 1977 and 2013. Read the full article here.
Correctional Assn. of NY Testifies at NY Assembly Hearing on Prison Health; Urges Health Department oversight, end to delays in treatment, and increase in resources for better care
(October 31, 2017, New York, NY) The Correctional Association of New York (CA) yesterday was one of more than fifteen organizations and agencies testifying at a New York State Assembly Joint Health and Correction’s public hearing on prison healthcare. Through our statutory authority granted in 1846, the CA monitors New York prisons and reports to [...]Read More
MARYSVILLE, Ohio — One-month-old Javon Jackson fidgets with his mom’s jacket as he drinks from his bottle and holds her hand. His mom coos. Her friends laugh, and a precocious, 2-year-old toddler stops by and waves hi. In all, it is a typical, upbeat moment for any mother and child — until prison officials tell [...]Read More
Under unique statutory authority granted to the CA in 1846, WIPP monitors conditions in women’s prisons in New York, a role played by no other group in the country. WIPP coordinates the Coalition for Women Prisoners, a statewide alliance of more than 1,800 people, and carries out advocacy campaigns to reform harmful criminal justice policies. [...]Read More
Watch the Correctional Association’s video about the barbaric – and illegal – shackling of incarcerated women during childbirth. In 2009 New York enacted a statute restricting the use of shackles on women during childbirth. The law bans outright the use of restraints on women throughout labor, delivery and recovery “after giving birth,” which is meant [...]Read More