Opinion: Menstrual equity, period

On good days, your lips feel chapped, mouth a little dry, and body dehydrated. On bad days, your back aches, your thighs sore, and your cramps tugs at you with constant spasms. Sometimes you are short of breath from the searing pain in your abdomen. Other times you feel light-headed and fatigued from just trying to carry your body straight up. By the end of the day, your body feels so heavy from the all-too-familiar menstrual pain that you just want to collapse onto your bed with pillows that pile up like your blood-stained laundry. The next morning you wake up just to experience it all again, counting down the days before the pain will come to an end. That is what menstruation feels like. 

Despite having to go through this every month, I still consider myself lucky. Lucky that I can use period products safe for my reproductive health, that I can afford to opt for pads that are free from chlorine bleach, dioxin, and fragrance.

This is a privilege that not all menstruators have, especially in Thailand where period products are considered a luxury instead of a necessity. One that fails to be provided readily to incarcerated and underprivileged menstruators. Menstruators suffering from period poverty, meaning inaccessibility to period products, use socks, newspapers, tissues, and pieces of cloth as alternatives. This begs the question of why good reproductive health is a privilege in the first place?

Period products have always been taxed in Thailand, however the recent #ผ้าอนามัยปลอดภาษี (#taxfreepads) brought to light our longstanding need for period equity. 

On Thursday, the government re-categorized period products as cosmetic, opening the possibility of a 30 per cent sales tax. The government has since clarified that period products are controlled substances and that it would not be subject to a sales tax and only VAT. It does highlight an ongoing problem, however.

Period products must be accessible, if not free, as they are a basic healthcare necessity. We cannot be governed by a law that fails to acknowledge our bodies, one that does not hold in the highest of regards our safety, security and well-being. #ผ้าอนามัยปลอดภาษี is not a mere trend, it is a due diligence.

To stakeholders involved in the period-product industry, the true value of being able to provide us menstruators the assurance of hygiene lies not in your sales figures. It lies in your commitment to actively raising awareness for destigmatizing the natural, biological process of menstruation; in your putting people over profit when it comes to alleviating period poverty; in your recognition that period poverty is often worst for those facing several disadvantages at once due to gender, education or income status, and that your privileged clients should not be the only menstruators your company is committed to serve. 

To legislators and policymakers involved in not only in tax laws on period products but all laws governing the bodies of women and menstruators, I ask you to exercise your intellectual humility in making such decisions, that you invariably be of humbled opinions and perspectives, even when the identities of those law you legislate upon does not include yours. I ask you to exercise genuine modesty by seeking to have the identities you legislate upon be represented, present, and heard in the makings of your decision. I demand that the laws be legislated to serve, not overpower.


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