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Government report on period poverty to be launched next month

The report comes as two senators have put forward proposed legislation on the issue.

Image: Shutterstock/Monstar Studio

THE GOVERNMENT’S REPORT on period poverty will be launched next month, according to the Department of Health.

The programme for government commits to provide a range of free, adequate, safe and suitable period products in all educational publicly funded settings – including schools and colleges.

The report comes as two senators have put forward proposed legislation on the issue.

A sub-committee on period poverty – when girls and women struggle to afford sanitary products – was established within the National Strategy for Women and Girls (NSWG) Strategy Committee in 2019. 

Its remit included establishing the extent of period poverty in Ireland, as well as the population cohorts most at risk.

The committee was also tasked with considering the circumstances of young people under the age of 25, targeting of high-risk groups, stigma reduction and mainstreaming period poverty mitigation measures across all relevant government departments and public bodies.

The sub-committee submitted its report in December, and it is due to be launched at some point in February. 

Half of females aged 12-19 in Ireland who were surveyed last year said they have experienced issues paying for sanitary products.

Labour Senator Rebecca Moynihan first brought her Period Products (Free Provisions) Bill to the Seanad this month. If enacted, it would provide for period products to be freely available in schools, education institutions and public service buildings.

The Bill also places an obligation on the Minister for Health to engage in an information campaign to ensure people know where to obtain the products.

Modelled on the legislation introduced by the Scottish Labour Party, which will make period products freely available, the Bill places the onus on the relevant institutions to consult with women on the variety of products required.

Fianna Fáil’s Lorraine Clifford-Lee has also introduced her own Bill on the issue, with the proposed legislation aiming to ensure that everybody who needs to use period products obtains them free of charge.

“This follows on from a commitment in the programme for government,” Clifford-Lee told the Seanad.

“The Bill imposes an obligation on the Minister for Health to produce a scheme to set out and regulate access to free period products.” 

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Her Bill will reach Second Stage in the Seanad on Tuesday.

Speaking about period injustice, Moynihan said it can have a detrimental effect on the health and wellbeing of women, girls and trans people.

“The objective of this legislation is that all who menstruate should be able to access period products, at no cost, as and when they are required,” she said.

“Period products are not a luxury item and should be accessible to all who need them. This is a common sense piece of legislation which will ensure that young women in particular can access different types of period products easily, and with dignity.

“Every day, about 800 million women, girls and trans people menstruate. During a year, the average Irish person spends an extra €61.39 on period products, just because of their menstrual cycle. But the real cost of this is much higher – painkillers, laundry products and contraceptive pills. This is a huge additional financial cost, particularly for the most vulnerable in our society,” said Moynihan.

The Labour senator has also raised concerns about some girls not wanting to go to school when menstruating because they can’t afford tampons and sanitary towels. 

A debate on proposed legislation is scheduled to be held on 8 February.

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