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 Legislating menstruation 


From the Publisher's Desk By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

When people with fancy titles gather in summits and conferences, they coin technocratic phrases that are repeated in subsequent summits and conferences. These phrases catch on. They become part of a global vocabulary, looming larger and larger until they occupy our thoughts and convince us of the incredible magnitude of a “problem” attached to a particular phrase.

These “problems” entail more studies and statistics, resulting in global mandates that governments must follow. They call for the implementation of domestic policies that require the use of public funds. Every taxpayer must chip in.

I am a middle-aged woman but I had never heard of “period poverty” until it crawled into policy discussions on Guam. So I did some research. According to studies, girls miss their class during their monthly period because they don’t have access to menstrual products, hence “affecting their education.” (Hmmn. But doesn't every study conclude that girls perform in school better than boys? Throughout my primary and secondary school years, girls were consistently in the Top 10 of the class.)

“Even though menstrual health is a woman’s rights and it’s a key aspect to achieving gender equality there are still many barriers for menstruators worldwide to overcome before they are able to menstruate with enough knowledge, products and without stigma,” states a UN article, which labeled “period poverty” as “a worldwide problem.”

According to the 2022 Global Period Poverty Forum, women “are still facing stigma, discrimination and restrictions simply because they are menstruating” and that “despite many efforts to educate young people on menstrual health, the stigma persists.”

This must change, according to forum participants, who called on the entire world “to build collaboration, advocate strongly.” “We need corporate engagement,” they said. “We need to do it together!”

On Guam, this so-called “worldwide problem” resulted in the launch of Project Sottera, an initiative to “make sure that all young women on Guam have access to menstrual products so that they can stay in school, participate in activities, or stay at work during their menstrual cycle.”

“(The Bureau of Women’s Affairs) conducted surveys with the Department of Education nurses and teachers and with DPHSS clients about the need for menstrual products in our public schools and in our community. The results show an overwhelming need,” according to Project Sottera’s website.

As a result, the Guam legislature allotted $25,000 to the Guam Department of Education for menstrual hygiene product supply at public schools in fiscal 2024. “All public schools on Guam that serve students in grades five through [zd1] shall provide menstrual hygiene products, such as tampons and sanitary pads, in the nursing or counselor’s offices of such schools; and such products shall be provided to students at no charge to them,” the budget law states. The same amount is being proposed in fiscal 2025.

I agree, every school needs to stock up on emergency supply of sanitary feminine products just as every school provides a regular supply of toilet paper, soap and hand sanitizers. But legislating menstruation and mandating mass distribution of feminine products at public schools is the height of the nanny state fever.

Currently, 25 states and Washington, D.C. have passed legislation to help students who menstruate have free access to period products while in school.

It’s a slippery slope. Next, conferences will come up with “dental poverty,” which would require every government to buy toothpaste for every citizen. Then, “body odor poverty,” which would require every taxpayer to chip in for other people’s deodorant.

I don’t consider myself as belonging in any ideological box, but I find it hard to believe that people can’t afford to buy feminine products. If every kid can own an iPhone, then surely, their parents can buy a box of Whisper each month. (The cheapest brand costs $2.49 a pack at PayLess).

Monthly bleeding is part of a woman's body functions. There is no stigma attached to it. We need pads as part of personal hygiene, like every product that we buy and use in the bathroom. It’s everyone’s private responsibility that does not need to be dragged into the session hall.

The government needs to build a new hospital, address the growing crime rate on Guam and fix the sorry conditions of public schools, and the Department of Education needs to focus on raising the quality of education. They don't need to get distracted by the Kotex drama.


We live on an island ruled by a woman governor, women senators, women business executives, women journalists and women community leaders. So clearly, menstruation does not bring about “stigma, discrimination and restrictions” in this part of the world.

Jane Addams, Jessie Daniel Ames, Susan B. Anthony and Simone de Beauvoir, among other early feminists, have paved the way for our generation to take advantage of opportunities that have opened since the first wave of the feminist movement.

Teaching “women empowerment” to young girls begins with teaching them about personal responsibility and overcoming obstacles rather than inculcating a sense of dependence at an early age and introducing the idea that the government must do everything for them.

 If we want the government to leave our bodies alone, we should not ask the government to pay for what we put in our underwear.

Happy Women’s History Month!



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