Period Dignity: Joint letter to the Chancellor
We are relieved at the long overdue acknowledgment by the Government that it must take action to end period poverty. However we urge you to take a human rights approach to this issue and ensure universal free access to menstruating products in England, not just children at secondary schools and colleges.
UNICEF says ‘Human rights are those rights that are essential to live as human beings – basic standards without which people cannot survive and develop in dignity.’ Sadly, dignity is not a word we can associate with periods. Menstruating is a stigmatised, hidden, costly and potentially dangerous if we cannot access hygienic menstruating products. That is why a human rights-based approach whereby rights to access period products are at the very centre of our policies and practices.
We are concerned that your announcement in the Spring Statement this week limits funding for free menstrual products to secondary schools and colleges only. Although the secretary of state made reference to a task group in reality there can be no good reason for restricting the scheme by age and lifestyle in this way, thereby denying access to younger children who are still at primary school but have already started their periods and those who are in full-time compulsory education in other settings, such as pupil referral units or other alternative provision. We must also remember the vulnerable women and girls in homeless shelters, women’s refuges or those who use food banks that will undoubtedly experience period poverty and who are in need of this provision.
Human rights don’t stop when you leave school, and neither do periods! We all have a right to health and dignity. On average a woman, or person who menstruates, will spend close to £5,000 on period products over the course of their lifetime. We provide toilet paper in all bathrooms; why is access to menstrual products not treated in the same way? Period products should be available for free for all who need them, regardless of age or income level.
We call on the government to legislate for free universal access to period products in line with a Bill being introduced to the Scottish Parliament by Monica Lennon MSP, and encourage private employers to tackle the issue in workplaces across the country too.
Period poverty disempowers and disenfranchises those who experience it, from when they begin menstruating until they stop. This is an extraordinary opportunity for us to come together to end this outrage, for all who menstruate, regardless of their age. No one should be held back because of their period.
We look forward to your urgent action.
Grahame Morris MP