Celebrating Menstrual Hygiene Day: Reproductive Rights & The Fight Against Period Poverty

- colombotelegraph.com

By Janakie Seneviratne –

Janakie Seneviratne

Menstruation, commonly referred to as periods, is a biological process universally experienced by people with uteruses. However, cultural perceptions and practices surrounding menstruation vary widely across the globe, and it remains a globally stigmatized issue. These perceptions and stigma can deeply influence how menstruating individuals are treated within their societies. This is why Menstrual Hygiene Day is observed every year on May 28th—to raise awareness about the challenges women and girls face due to menstruation and to highlight solutions to address these challenges.

The terms “menstruation” and “menses” come from the Latin word “mensis,” which means “month.” This is related to the Greek word “mene,” meaning “moon,” and is also the origin of the English words “month” and “moon.” Many myths and traditions assume that menstruation should be in sync with the moon.

Religious and cultural practices and perceptions regarding menstruation are deeply intertwined with broader cultural, social, and gender norms. Common period taboos include the idea that women are impure, dirty, or sinful while menstruating. While traditional views often frame menstruation in terms of purity and impurity, modern movements within various religious communities are working to change these perceptions, aiming for increased inclusivity and respect for those who menstruate.

In Sri Lanka, when a girl experiences her first menstruation, she is often secluded in a room away from men, accompanied by female relatives who are instructed not to leave her alone. ‘Kotahalu Magula’ is then performed to publicly announce to the village that a young woman is now eligible for marriage. According to a study by UNICEF and WaterAid, there are several taboos in Sri Lanka related to menstruation. These taboos and misinformation negatively impact the menstrual hygiene of women and girls, undermining gender equality. They lead to discrimination, causing women and girls to miss out on education, work, and other opportunities in life. For example, 60% of parents in Sri Lanka do not allow their daughters to attend school during their periods, and 80% of teachers believe that bathing should be avoided during menstruation.

Regardless of the religious, cultural, and mythological beliefs surrounding menstruation, it is fundamentally tied to human reproduction, making it a cornerstone of our ability to perpetuate the species. Its absence would lead to infertility, population decline, and significant social and economic challenges. Girls can begin menstruating as young as 7 or 8 years old or as late as 16 or 17 years old. However, even though they are menstruating, girls have not fully developed to the point where they can safely carry a fetus. Pregnancy and childbirth complications are the leading cause of death for girls aged 15-19 worldwide. Child marriage is a human rights abuse that often denies girls the opportunity to marry a person of their choice.

Although half of the population menstruates, yet many people don’t realize that one in four women struggles to afford menstrual supplies due to financial constraints. This issue, known as menstrual or period poverty, affects individuals we know and interact with daily, such as co-workers and friends. Women working in factories are highly vulnerable because menstruation-related needs, such as bathroom breaks, may be penalized, leading to unequal working conditions.

According to research conducted by Advocata in 2021, the menstrual poverty rate in Sri Lanka is 50%. This means that half of the households with women of menstruating age do not spend any money on sanitary napkins, leading to significant difficulties for these women. According to the World Bank, girls and women need access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) facilities, affordable and appropriate menstrual hygiene materials, and information on good practices to manage menstruation effectively. They also require a supportive environment where they can handle menstruation without shame or stigma. Many non-urban schools, however, lack access to piped water and other essential facilities, exacerbating the challenges faced by girls and women.

Period poverty is not only an economic issue but also a social and political one. Increased economic vulnerability women and girls face, due to the financial burden of purchasing supplies to manage menstruation. These requirements include not only menstrual pads and tampons, but also related expenses such as painkillers and underwear. Ensuring access to these essentials is crucial for the health and development of everyone who menstruates. No girl should miss school, no woman should miss work, and no one should miss out on daily life because they cannot afford basic menstrual supplies. It’s a widespread problem that deserves more attention and action.

The term “tampon tax” (or period tax) has gained popularity to draw attention to the fact that tampons, sanitary napkins, menstrual cups, and similar feminine hygiene products are often subject to value-added tax (VAT) or sales tax, unlike other products considered basic necessities that are tax-exempt. This issue has sparked debates and movements advocating for policy changes to remove taxes on menstrual products to ensure affordability and equitable access for all menstruating individuals.

Recognizing the need to ensure access to menstrual hygiene products for the health and development of everyone who menstruates, many countries since 2004 have abolished or reduced sales taxes for tampons and pads. This includes countries such as Kenya, Canada, India, Colombia, Australia, Germany, and Rwanda. These policy changes aim to alleviate the financial burden on menstruating individuals and ensure equitable access to essential hygiene products. India eliminated its 12% tax on feminine hygiene products in 2018, following a year of lobbying by advocacy groups and celebrities.

Given the current economic difficulties faced by Sri Lanka, finding solutions to alleviate the financial burden of menstrual hygiene products has been challenging and risky. Despite the efforts of Sri Lankan civil activists lobbying for relief, no progress has been made so far. While the government recently exempted various items from duty, including non-essential items like artillery pieces, gold jewelry, exercise equipment, golf equipment, and raw silk, sanitary napkins were excluded from the list.

To improve menstrual management for women in Sri Lanka, the government should take immediate steps to provide comprehensive reproductive health education for adolescent girls and women and reduce the financial burden of menstrual hygiene products. I hope that the National People’s Power (NPP), which may take over government power in the future, has a work plan to address this issue. It is crucial that they prioritize this issue to ensure the well-being and dignity of all women and young girls.

The post Celebrating Menstrual Hygiene Day: Reproductive Rights & The Fight Against Period Poverty appeared first on Colombo Telegraph.

You may also like

- onlanka.com

Sri Lanka’s Forest Conservation Department announced that drone operations will commence today (June 14), to detect forest destruction.The post Sri Lanka deploys Drones to combat Forest Destruction appeared first on Sri Lanka News | Breaking News & Top Stories in Sri Lanka | ONLANKA.

- onlanka.com

The U.S. Ambassador in Colombo, Julie Chung, says that the United States welcomes the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) approval of Sri Lanka’s second review of the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) programme.The post United States encourages Sri Lanka to stay committed to reforms appeared first on Sri Lanka News | Breaking News & Top Stories in Sri Lanka | ONLANKA.

- adaderana.lk

Sri Lanka s year-on-year GDP growth rate for the first quarter of 2024 has been estimated as 5.3% of positive growth rate, according to the Department of Census and Statistics.

- island.lk

The Maligakanda Magistrate’s Court today [14] ordered that former Minister of Health Keheliya Rambukwella and seven others be further remanded until June 28 by over the import of substandard human Immunoglobulin vials.  

- island.lk

More than 1.5 million Muslim pilgrims have gathered in Saudi Arabia’s Mecca for the start of Hajj, taking place this year against the harrowing backdrop of Israel’s continued onslaught on the Gaza Strip. The annual pilgrimage began on Friday with crowds of robed worshippers circling the Kaaba, the black cubic structure at Mecca’s Grand Mosque, […]

- adaderana.lk

Former Minister of Health Keheliya Rambukwella and 07 others have been further remanded until June 28 by the Maligakanda Magistrate s Court over the import of substandard human Immunoglobulin vials.

Resources for Sri Lankan Charities:View All

How important are accountability and transparency for a charity to receive international donations
How important are accountability and transparency for a charity to receive international donations

Sri Lankan Events:View All

Sep 02 - 03 2023 12:00 am - 1:00 am Sri Lankan Events - Canada
Sep 09 2023 7:00 pm Sri Lankan Events - Australia
Sep 16 2023 6:00 pm - 11:30 pm Sri Lankan Events - USA
Oct 14 2023 8:00 am Sri Lankan Events - UK

Entertainment:View All

Technology:View All

Local News

Local News

Sri Lanka News

@2023 - All Right Reserved. Designed and Developed by Rev-Creations, Inc