Girls are affected negatively by menstruation in developing and under-developed countries. Often times, they are pulled out of school due to lack of private facilities; feminine products are not as accessible; and the topic of menstruation is often stigmatized and rarely discussed not just in public but in the private lives of women and families. It’s easy to think that here in the United States, this is not as widespread of a problem. But for women in prison, they often face similar difficulties when it comes to menstruation.
At York Correctional Institution in Niantic, Connecticut, women are expected to share five menstrual pads every week, which totals to ten pads for each woman. This allows for a woman to change her pad once a day if she averages a five-day monthly cycle. However, every body is different, so this number varies dramatically.
More often times than not, women in prison cannot afford to buy extra sanitary pads and they are often forced to use sanitary pads for other uses than just menstruation. Other necessities, such as toothpaste and deodorant, are prioritized higher than menstruation products, and the sanitary pads can be used for cleaning, ear plugs, and in the case of Piper Chapman in “Orange Is the New Black,” makeshift shoes.
While the lack of feminine products is not just for financial reasons, it also is to establish the lack of power in prisoners. Women in prison often soil their suits because they cannot afford to buy feminine products and because they may need to use the products for other more basic reasons, such as to keep clean or be comfortable. Women often soil themselves because they bleed through their sanitary pads and cannot afford to replace them. The soiling is often a reminder of how little power women have in this environment. And when women do work up the courage to ask for feminine products, the power is in the hands of the prison guards. He or she gets to decide whether or not the prisoner gets to have sanitary pads, and if the guard chooses to refuse, there is very little women can do to change his or her mind.
While people often complain that prisoners should not be given little luxuries, basic toiletries and feminine products are a human right. Toilet paper and tampons should be accessible to all, regardless of whether or not someone is behind bars. More importantly, menstruation is part of being a woman and by refusing a woman feminine products, we are shaming her for being a woman.
Sources: The Guardian
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