Period Poverty in a Pandemic: Harnessing Law to Achieve Menstrual Equity
37 Pages Posted: 21 Sep 2020 Last revised: 27 Jul 2021
Date Written: September 1, 2020
Period poverty is not new, but it has become more visible during the COVID-19 crisis. Worldwide, menstruation has long caused marginalization and vulnerability for some. The pandemic has amplified these conditions. This Article makes three claims. The first is descriptive, identifying four interrelated aspects of global period poverty that have gained new salience during the coronavirus pandemic: lack of access to affordable menstrual products; lack of access to other needed supplies and services for health and sanitation; lack of menstruation-related information and support from schools and health professionals; and menstrual stigma and shame. By using examples from multiple countries, the Article highlights the importance of having the ability to manage one’s menstruation in a safe and affordable way.
The Article’s second claim is that law has a role to play in eliminating period poverty—both during a pandemic, and beyond. By making sure that menstruation-related concerns are taken into account in defining “essential businesses,” for example, governments can both address the material needs of approximately half the population and signal that those needs are important.
Finally, the Article explores the heightened visibility of menstruation-related concerns during the COVID-19 crisis as suggestive of an emerging popular awareness of period poverty. This Article’s account has important implications for a larger world-wide menstrual equity movement that takes aim at all menstruation-related obstacles standing in the way full participation for all people in private and public life.
Keywords: menstruation, COVID-19, pandemic corona virus, poverty, menstrual equity
JEL Classification: K1
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation