By Mari Bakhtamyan
Edited by Lana Markulin
Last year, the Pupils Committee started supplying the girls’ toilets with free period products; however, it didn’t last long. After a few refills, the shoe boxes, where the pads and tampons were, became empty. There was nothing there up until recently, when the school installed hygiene-product vending machines. This sparks a question: should people pay for period products in public spaces?
First of all, why should period products be supplied at public toilets? If you haven’t ever had a period, let me paint the picture: you are in the school bathroom and you realise that your period has started and, unfortunately, you have left your stuff in class. What would you do? None of your friends are nearby to ask them, you can’t go back to class, and the nurse’s office is pretty far away. In this case, it would be helpful to have some hygiene products nearby. The school nurse has a supply of period products, but some girls are shy or they could be ashamed that they have their period. Having to go to the nurse’s office for sanitary products could imply that something is wrong with you: usually when someone goes to the nurse’s office, it means that something is “wrong”, but having a period is nothing to be ashamed of. Having period products in the toilets should be as common a practice as having toilet paper; they both are natural bodily functions that should be tended to with care; otherwise, it can be dangerous or even lethal (prolonged wear of an unchanged sanitary product can lead to toxic shock syndrome). Having toilet paper in bathrooms isn’t debated, so why should having pads or tampons be?
Now let’s say they are supplied, but you have to pay for them; what’s the problem? Let’s bring back the toilet paper analogy: do you have to pay for toilet paper? No. Why? Because it is not a luxury, it is a necessity. The difference between luxury and necessity is that luxury is a privilege, but having access to hygiene products is not a privilege. Period products and toilet paper are on the same level of necessity, so why should toilet paper be supplied freely and not hygiene products? It might seem as though it is an unnecessary expense for the school, but it will actually cost the school 20€ per student per year (according to Patricia Schillinger from ouest-france.fr). Many schools and public facilities have started to supply them for free around the world, the first being in Scotland, followed by New Zealand, some states in the USA (New York, Washington, Illinois, etc.), Kenya, South Africa, etc. Additionally, Scotland has made period products free for everyone anywhere (the government supplies them for free).
Fortunately, some initiatives have started in Luxembourg to make sanitary products free. For example, in the University of Luxembourg, free period products have been readily available since 2021; however, that doesn’t mean that it should stop there; there is a long way to go. The more awareness there is, the higher the chance of change.