Menstruation: Growing Public Health Matter in MexicoBy Miriam Bello | Wed, 03/03/2021 - 18:05
Over the years, the petition for free access to menstrual products for women has become stronger. Countries like New Zealand and Scotland have recognized menstruation as a public health matter, breaking the stigma that surrounds this natural biological process.
Mexico has joined the movement, which primarily targets ending period poverty, so girls and women can access or afford menstrual products. According to a study by UNAM, in 2020, poverty in Mexico affected 38 million people, of which approximately 14.2 million were women. Poverty in Mexico translates to difficulties to access basics like food, water, education and health services. Access to menstrual products has become a challenge for millions of girls and women in the country, which is why movements such as Menstruación Digna were born.
According to UNICEF, 43 percent of girls and adolescents in Mexico prefer to skip school during their menstrual period. This problem is already a red light in terms of health access but it also means barriers for learning opportunities, which in the long term affects social participation and generates inequality.
UNICEF says only 5 percent of children and adolescences have basic knowledge about menstruation, which limits the subject even more, as the understanding of this body process is inexistent. Just 5 percent of parents talk about menstruation with their children, while doctors stand at 7 percent. 16 percent of girls and women have precise knowledge about menstruation against 5 percent of men. Women also face lack of water for hygiene services, which makes scenario even harder. This is why UNICEF and organizations like Global Citizen promote menstruation as a public health concern.
The risks of not addressing the problem can be many. Physically, women without an adequate menstrual hygiene can develop urinary tract infections and reproductive health problems, according to UNICEF. This also prevents women from reaching their full potential, as they miss out on crucial growth opportunities because they prefer to skip school, as mentioned above.
In Mexico, conversations about the elimination of taxes on these products were detained in Congress, which, according to Nexos, can be seen as gender discrimination as men do not have to pay these extra taxes for their primary needs. To date, Mexico’s tax for menstrual products stands at 16 percent, which is on the highest rates of its type, globally.
Eliminating taxes on menstrual products would be a good to move toward a gender tax policy and the inclusion of this subject in the public health agenda. The debate has been pushed forward with more success in countries like Scotland and New Zealand where these products are now free. In Mexico, some states have also made important progress. On Mar. 3, 2021, Michoacán became the first state to approve the #MenstruaciónDigna Law, which would primarily reform the Education Law to grant the right to education and access to menstrual products at public schools.
Some of the challenges to face, according to El Financiero, include the following:
- Authorities must develop and distribute educational material in the various languages of the state territory to guide students on the issue of menstruation.
- They must ensure availability of basic hygiene and menstrual health supplies to avoid school absenteeism, bullying and discrimination.
- Academic programs must include comprehensive reproductive health and sexual education, as well as responsible parenthood to prevent adolescent pregnancies.
- Students should have the right to receive scholarships and suitable products for menstrual management, such as disposable and cloth sanitary pads, tampons and menstrual cups.