Period politics are pretty complicated and not just in the states. It’s taboo worldwide. In the U.S., more states have FINALLY moved to end taxes on tampons but for years menstrual products were taxed and there were very obvious sexist and discriminating motives behind that. Just discussing menstrual cycles or products is still frowned upon in many cultures throughout the world — including Latin America. But what’s even more upsetting than the stigma itself, is the way periods aren’t taken seriously at all. Take the young women in the migrant caravan, for example. For lot of these women seeking asylum, having access to pads at these shelters isn’t always easy and finding privacy to clean themselves and change their pads is even harder.
Teen Vogue reports that when the first migrant caravan of people from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador stopped for a week at the Ciudad Deportiva Magdalena, Mixhuca in Mexico City, migrant women were offered menstrual pads provided by charities. They also provided new pairs of women’s underwear at rest stops. People were finally acknowledging the importance of supplying women with free menstrual products but what the women often couldn’t find, was privacy and clean bathrooms to shower. That’s a massive problem.
“What we found was that the main difficulties women and girls face went beyond a need for materials and included a lack of privacy and facilities to manage their menstruation,” Dr. Marni Sommer DrPH, who has worked with the International Rescue Committee told Teen Vogue. “For women and girls displaced by conflict or natural disaster … managing their monthly periods can be challenging. […] Without the ability to properly manage their periods, women and girls are increasingly vulnerable in their day-to-day lives. It makes them more susceptible to gender-based and sexual violence as they seek appropriate materials and private places to wash, dry and dispose of used materials.”
The truth is, most of us are beyond privileged in the sense that we don’t even have to think twice about our periods when it comes to access to products. In fact, these days the options are pretty endless. While we’re contemplating if we want to switch to organic tampons or menstrual cups that are healthier for our va-jay-jays and better for the environment, these poor women are worrying about if they can find a private place to change their pads. If that doesn’t bring perspective, I don’t know what will.
Like Sommer says, not having access to privacy alone is harmful because it can put women not only at risk for infections due to lack of hygiene but also sexual violence since they are often stuck changing and washing in front of men. For a lot of these women, the only showering options are out in the open or in community-style bathrooms that have both men and women. Could you imagine migrating to a country that’s still relatively safer than your home country, being placed in a shelter where every day you worry if you’re going to be deported, raped, assaulted or if you’ll have enough pads and privacy to not bleed through your clothes?
More and more charities and organizations are donating pads to these women but the bigger issue is the privacy and bathroom situations and it looks like things could possibly get worse now that the Trump administration is now denying asylum seekers entry into the states and making them stay in Mexico unless they receive approval.