According to the IMF, the UK has the fifth largest economy in the world as of 2016. So why in this affluent developed country must some women take such demeaning measures every month to deal with menstruation such as using newspaper, socks and toilet roll in lieu of sanitary products?
Ken Loach’s recent film release – ‘I, Daniel Blake’ – spotlights the inaccessibility and unaffordability of feminine hygiene products as it includes a scene in which a young, impoverished mother shoplifts a packet of tampons after being previously told by a foodbank that there were none available. In a society of free condoms and birth control pills, this is a scene which plays far too often.
Following a successful proposal in NYC to distribute sanitary products in schools, prisons and homeless shelters, Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon has tabled a motion to provide free feminine hygiene products in the UK with cross-party support and the cooperation from Edward Gurr, the Scotland development officer for the Trussell Trust. The Trust organise and run foodbanks nationwide and whilst Gurr has said that foodbanks try to stock sanitary products, it is indispensable that feminine hygiene products can be accessed by everyone who needs them with the same ease.
According to research carried out for the Trussell Trust this year, “1.2 million people across the UK are going without essential toiletries, including tampons and towels.” With the serious health risks associated with poor feminine hygiene such as toxic shock syndrome, this is an urgent matter of not only dignity, but of health and wellbeing. Whilst the grotesque nature of the above mentioned methods of dealing with menstruation can seem to be the most degrading aspect of this outrageous inequity, the truly unthinkable thing is that this undignified injustice is being allowed to happen here and now. Scottish scriptwriter for ‘I, Daniel Blake’, Paul Laverty, met with some Brits who feel the lashings of austerity deeper than others, and Laverty’s and Loach’s disgust with the establishment transpires into the audience’s aversion to the Tory welfare system which leaves behind so many. Indeed, Loach has commented, “If you’re not angry about it, what kind of person are you?”
[Ellen Magee –@mondaymagee]