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.