When I was in the UK in the early 80s women were up in arms over the imposition of VAT on tampons when pipe cleaners were exempt.
One is a necessity the other is not.
Fast forward more than three decades and students want universities to supply free sanitary products to students in the same way they provide condoms.
New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations president Linsey Higgins said it had heard from a number of students from across the country about the compromises they were making due to not being able to afford sanitary products.
Ms Higgins said students were having to use substitutes, such as toilet paper, or staying home while on their period, and were missing out on their education.
She said universities could use their negotiating position to buy in bulk to provide the products for free.
“We would like to see menstrual products having the same pride of place that condoms do in tertiary environments, for example in fish bowls, in medical centre receptions or student association receptions, so they’re not hidden from students and it’s not a shameful thing.”
“The more we can minimise and destigmatise menstruation, the better off we are.” . .
You could argue whether or not universities should be supplying condoms but they prevent disease and accidental pregnancies both of which impose a cost on individuals and the taxpayers.
Neither of those apply to sanitary protection, the benefits of which are the individuals’.
People on very low incomes struggle to afford enough food and other necessities. Sanitary products are necessities and aren’t cheap.
But students have choices.
They can work part time during the term and full time in holidays to supplement student allowances and loans.
They can study part time and hold down part or full time employment.
They can defer study while working to save enough to get them through their studies.
Every dollar universities spend on something like this is a dollar less available to spend on what they’re there for – providing excellent tertiary education.
If universities are expected to provide free sanitary protection should they also provide free razors for men who can’t afford to shave?