Why should menstrual products be free in Quebec’s public institutions?

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A few weeks ago, Scotland officially became the first country in the world to make menstrual products free, in hope of abolishing period poverty. Change is in the air in Canada too. Indeed, in 2019, British Columbia became the first province to offer free menstrual products to students. On December 4th, 2020, the National Assembly of Quebec passed a motion, brought by Marie-Victorin’s representative, Catherine Fournier. The objective of this motion is to offer free period products in public schools and other public institutions in Quebec. But, why is it important to have a system of free menstrual products in Quebec? 

Here’s what Quebec already offers
While certain items such as cocktail cherries and wedding cakes were not even taxed, menstrual products were considered luxury items in Quebec, and had both the federal Goods and Services Tax and the provincial Quebec sales tax applied to them for over 20 years. It is not until 2015, that this unfair tax, referred to as the tampon tax, was officially removed. 

A few municipalities in Quebec have a program that reimburse up to 125$ to women who use eco-friendly alternatives, such as menstrual cups, reusable period pads, and menstrual panties. But, only 15 municipalities have this option, making it not easily accessible to all Quebeckers. 

Menstrual products should be free in public institutions
More than 50% of the population experiences periods, and no one can choose to have them. To maintain good personal hygiene during them, sanitary pads, tampons, menstrual cups, period panties and/or reusable pads are needed. While soap and toilet paper, meant to maintain basic hygiene, are free in public bathrooms, sanitary pads and tampons are not. This is not logical as they are all there for hygienic purposes and are essential.

Furthermore, the presence of free alternatives in public bathrooms is fundamental for both homeless women and women and girls who have a hard time affording menstrual products. Indeed, homeless women sometimes have to choose between having a meal or maintaining good hygiene during their periods due to the high cost of such products and according to Plan International Canada, more than a third of Canadian women under the age of 25 cannot afford menstrual products. Implementing free menstrual products in public institutions such as schools and public bathrooms is therefore necessary.

In short, there has been progress in Quebec regarding the accessibility to period products, but it was not enough. With this new motion, homeless women and women and girls who cannot afford the high prices of period products will be able to meet their basic hygienic means, which is fundamental.

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