FFRF cheers bill for menstrual equality

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Rhode Island Gov. Daniel McKee last week signed SB 86, which requires that feminine hygiene products be provided in all public schools in the state, a move that the Freedom From Religion Foundation applauds.

The new law means that all public schools serving students in grades five through 12 will make tampons and sanitary napkins available at no cost to students beginning in the 2022-2023 school year.

Rhode Island is the latest state to adopt these menstrual equality initiatives; New Hampshire, New York, Illinois and California have also approved similar requirements. Additionally, two years ago Boston Public Schools launched a pilot program to provide free menstrual products.

In a statement, state Sen. Valarie Lawson, a sponsor of the bill, described the impetus of free feminine hygiene products: “We all know how necessary feminine hygiene products are, but what many people do not realize, and I see this as a long-time educator, is that a lack of access to these products can cause students to miss crucial school days.”

Lawson is correct, since “period poverty” is a top reason why U.S. girls miss school. In fact, a study found that one in five girls can’t afford to purchase menstrual hygiene products. This is also a global issue. In India, as many as 23 million young women drop out of school when they start menstruating.

Major religions across the world contribute to this culture of shame and health inequality by treating menstruation as a taboo topic. Indeed, texts and rituals from Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism describe menstruation as impure and that menstruating women should be avoided, asserting that women cannot enter temples or their own kitchens. They further contend that women should sleep during the day, speak softly, not touch others, and receive special blessings at the culmination of their period.

Making menstrual products available in public schools is an important step toward destigmatizing menstruation. The Freedom From Religion Foundation commends Rhode Island legislators and Gov. McKee for standing up for the health and education of millions of girls. We hope to see other states follow suit.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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