26/07/2017 03:58 SAST | Updated 26/07/2017 03:58 SAST

It's Not Asking That Much For Feminine Hygiene Products To Be Provided Free

Many girls miss school because they cannot afford them.

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Disposable sanitary towels were introduced in the 1890s as an alternative to washable types.

Before someone says that periods are not that bad, why don't we look at our society's ridiculous take on menstruation? Aside from the discomfort and pain of menstruation, women have to live in constant fear of 'humiliating' themselves in public. Our society mocks and belittles any woman who has an 'accident' and women are encouraged to be coy about their period.

Feminine hygiene products are taxed as if it is a luxury, many people do not even realise that these products are a medical need. Menstruation is a BIOLOGICAL PROCESS that CANNOT BE PREVENTED. Millions of young girls around the world miss school for a week every month because they cannot afford feminine hygiene products. Some females are forced to use the same pad or tampon for longer than medically recommended, just because these products are too expensive to purchase all the time.

Creative, and sometimes unhygienic, alternatives materialise and some young girls drop out of school because they have no way of dealing with their period. Is this not a serious global issue? It's not natural practice to carry around a roll of toilet paper, is it? Why would you? Toilet paper is freely provided in public restrooms. In fact, toilet paper is a very important need -- humans can't prevent themselves from expelling waste, can they?

In the same way, women cannot prevent their monthly cycles. So, why are feminine hygiene products not placed in the same category? Governments cater for free condoms, but a pack of pads or tampons are sold at considerably high prices. Recently, the South African government found that the populace would prefer flavoured condoms over the standard Choice condoms, and so they started to hand out free flavoured condoms.

Instead of spending more money to upgrade to flavoured condoms, the government could have started providing even a basic feminine hygiene product for free to ALL women.

However, it must be noted that the South African Department of Education has committed to supplying 3000 schools with sanitary pads for girls in grades 4 to 12. It still isn't ideal -- only girls who attend the chosen 3000 schools will receive these products, whereas free condoms are available to everyone. Do not get the wrong idea, free condoms are essential to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies, but feminine hygiene products are just as important and should be free too. These products are not a luxury- we need them.

Instead of spending more money to upgrade to flavoured condoms, the government could have started providing even a basic feminine hygiene product for free to ALL women. Just as people choose to buy 'nicer' condoms when they want to, women who can afford the 'nicer' products can buy them too. So many women and young girls would appreciate the availability of even a simple sanitary pad for free.

Governments around the world need to understand that providing free sanitary products would be a very positive thing. Free feminine hygiene products would drop school absenteeism rates among girls, increase a country's literacy rate and would allow for a more productive workforce. It's really not asking for much.