BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
New York City marked history last week when the city became the first in the nation to provide free feminine hygiene products in public schools, shelters and jails.
The Menstrual Equity Package consists of three laws addressing the way students, shelter residents and inmates access pads and tampons in city facilities.
The law requires 800 NYC public schools, including charter and District 75 (special education) schools, to make menstrual hygiene products available for free in school bathrooms. The bill is estimated to reach 300,000 students at a cost of $3.7 million.
This initiative was tested out by Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (D-Elmhurst) last September at the High School for the Arts and Businesses in Corona. Free pad and tampon dispensers were placed in the girl’s restroom, resulting in a 2.4 percent increase in attendance.
The Department of Citywide Administrative Services must provide menstrual hygiene products to the 23,000 current residents in Department of Homeless Services family shelters and single adult women shelters, Department of Youth and Community Development shelters and Human Resources Administration domestic violence shelters.
This bill not only targets adult women but it also requires that DCAS make these same supplies available to the youth in facilities operated by the Administration for Children’s Services. An estimated two million tampons and 3.5 million pads will be supplied to shelters, costing $540,000 per year.
The Department of Corrections must provide all female inmates with pads and tampons to not only meet their needs but to be provided immediately upon request. This law will come at no additional cost to the DOC.
“Menstrual hygiene products are as necessary as toilet paper and should be treated as basic bathroom supplies,” said Ferreras-Copeland. “They allow women and girls, whether in school or in the board room, to participate fully in their daily activities and avoid health risks.”
She said that providing menstrual hygiene products privately, immediately and for free is also about sending a body-positive message by not perpetuating shame and humiliation, and acknowledging that women’s bodies deserve some dignity during their periods.
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