New York City is officially the first city in the United States to introduce free tampons and sanitary pads in public schools, homeless shelters, and jails. The City Council passed the legislation unanimously on Tuesday.

The approval of the program, introduced by City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, follows a national discussion on the concerns around the costs of feminine hygiene products. The legislation is waiting for the signature of Mayor Bill de Blasio, who said he supports the initiative.

Once the mayor signs, the city authorities will require installing product dispenser across the city’s 800 public schools and other state entities. Image Credit: NPR
Once the mayor signs, the city authorities will require installing product dispenser across the city’s 800 public schools and other state entities. Image Credit: NPR

This action will provide about 300,000 female students, 23,000 women in homeless shelters and female inmates with the products. About 2 million tampons and 3.5 million pads will be given per year on shelters alone, taking $2.5 million of the $82 billion annual budget of the city.

Since last year, period expenses have become a public concern

Ever since last year, activists have been pushing on doing something about what they consider an unfair condition for women since they have to make space in their budget to afford all these sanitary products, which becomes harder for women with lower incomes. The goal is to reach what they call “menstrual equity” a now global movement.

Last year, Cristina Garcia, a member of the California State Assembly, introduced legislation that would make menstrual hygiene products exempt from taxes in her respective state, attending a situation that had been a struggle to a lot of women –the “tampon tax”. Just a few states had approved the law, including Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

Menstruation has always been a taboo, but as a biological function and a body process impossible to ignore, feminine hygiene products to deal with it become a necessity for women. Activists see taxes on these products as “gender injustice,” Garcia stated, according to Washington Post.

Last month, New York state became the sixth state to eliminate the sales tax on the items. Now, providing women with free tampons and pads makes the state a leader in supporting the movement. The decision could lead other cities to follow their example.

For some schools, period hygiene products are already free, but after taking a challenging and uncomfortable walk to the nurse’s office. The measure will accomplish to make it easier for girls at schools to get the supplies, since they will be available in restrooms, with easy access. It will also prevent them from being late to class, and even miss them sometimes.

“A young girl should not have to tell her teacher, to then tell her counsellor, to then be sent to the nurse’s office, to then be given a pad to then go back to the bathroom while a boy is already taking his exam in his classroom,” said Ferrares-Copeland, according to Vox.

The program was previously applied as a pilot in 25 schools in New York City late last year, and it seems to have worked.

On the other hand, some homeless shelters and jails provide the menstrual supplies for free, but activists see them as inadequate and insufficient. The law would allow women to be provided with the products as soon as requested.

Source: BBC News