Dealing With Period Poverty in Israel: Legislation and Public Action Proposals

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>> Click here to read the full policy paper

The term “period poverty” refers to the economic inability to procure hygiene products used by girls and women during their menstrual periods. Given the cost of these products, which is higher in Israel than in other Western countries, this results in discrimination and distress for girls who depend on their family’s financial resources and adds yet another burden on women living in poverty, whose number exceeds that of men among poor adults.

Period poverty disrupts the lives of girls and women and further exacerbates economic, social, and educational gaps. It leads to the use of hazardous stopgap substitutes instead of standard safe products, results in frequent absences from school and work, upsets other day-to-day activities, and impacts on their dignity and well-being.

The problem, which is rooted in gender discrimination, is hardly discussed despite its importance and possible long-term consequences and is absent from the Israeli legislature’s agenda due to, among other things, cultural and religious taboos about discussing the female menstrual cycle in public.

Therefore, in this paper, Zulat presents operational proposals for the rectification of the situation through legislation: to compel local authorities to provide free menstrual hygiene products in every state-recognized educational institution teaching grades 6 to 12, to require public bodies to make these products available in toilets in their buildings, and to fully exempt menstrual sanitary products from VAT. At the same time, a public discussion should be stimulated on this hushed-up issue in order to remove the stigma surrounding it, raise awareness to the toll it exacts on the lives of girls and women, and enhance their knowledge about their rights.

photo: Karolina Grabowska

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Dr. Maha Sabbah Karkabi

 

Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from Tel Aviv University (2015), a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Gender Studies, SOAS, University of London (2015-2016), a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Sociology at Tel Aviv University (2016-2017), and a postdoctoral fellowship Ph.D. at the Humphrey Institute for Social Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (2018-2020).
Dr. Maha Karbahi’s areas of interest focus on the connection between social change, family behavior, and gender inequality in societies in the process of change and specifically in Palestinian Arab society in Israel. Her research draws attention to the study of family life and employment, using a combined “ethnic lens” and “gender lens” and paying attention to the perspective of Palestinian Arab women, a group characterized by intersections between multiple marginal locations, which over the years has remained hidden from the research eye. Dr. Karkabi-Sabah’s research is published in professional journals and chapters in scientific books that are considered pioneers in family research, work, and gender equality.

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Prof. Frances Raday

Professor Emeritus in the Lieberman Chair in Labor Law, in the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University and serves as a full professor in the College of Management’s academic track, where she also serves as chair of the graduate program and as honorary president of the Concord Center for International Law Absorption. Radai was a member of a working group of the UN Human Rights Council on discrimination against women. In addition, she is a prominent and feminist human rights activist.

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Dr. Rawia Aburabia 

Faculty member of Sapir Academic College’s School of Law, received her PhD from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her research deals with the interface between law, gender, minorities, and human rights. Has published in leading journals on the subject of the matrimonial laws pertaining to Muslim women in Israel. Her book Under the Law, Outside Justice: Polygamy, Gendered Citizenship, and Colonialism in Israeli Law is expected to be published as part of the Gender Series of Kibbutz Meuhad Publishing House.

Dr. Aburabia has extensive experience in international human rights and public law. She has worked as a jurist for the Association for Civil Right and has been invited as a specialist to address such international forums as the United Nations and the European Parliament on the subject of indigenous communities and minority rights. She has interned with Human Rights Watch in Washington DC, and has been a member of the executive board of Amnesty International. In 2018, she was selected by the magazine Globes as one of the 40 most promising young persons in Israel under the age of 40.

 

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Ron Kessler

With over two decades of experience in the field of digital content, Ron has participated in numerous political and social campaigns. He helped run the digital activity of senior public officials, and worked in various NGOs. Ron is a fundamentally optimistic man, who believes that Israel can be changed and so can people. Lives in Tel Aviv.