Periods or Auntie Flo, the Crimson Tide, ‘qegħda bih’ AKA menstruation is a near certainty for all those born as females, just like death and taxes. Insincere apologies to all the readers who feel disgust or shame at reading about this purportedly taboo topic. Incidentally it should not be, because as mentioned it is a natural and common bodily function. However historically this stigma has existed since time immemorial, unsurprisingly Freud also mentioned it defining it as our fear of blood. As a reflection of this stigma, since the earliest times people have codified the definition of this physical, natural process rather than use its name.
Nearly half of Malta’s population is female, a similar percentage is reflected in the number of females in the world population. It stands to reason that many of them menstruate. These women and girls must make use of sanitary products, which come at a cost.
There is such a thing as period poverty which occurs when persons in the low-income bracket cannot afford or access appropriate menstrual sanitary products. The average duration of a period is around five days, this means additional monthly expenses to be spent on tampons and pads which not everyone can afford.
Last November Scotland became the first nation in the world to pass legislation that placed an obligation upon local authorities to make period products like tampons and pads free and available for everyone who needs them. Unsurprisingly the bill was introduced by a female Labour Member of the Scottish Parliament, Monica Lennon who has been campaigning to end period poverty since 2016.
Sanitary towels, pads, tampons and the newer and more costly (at initial purchase) re-usable period products or organic, biodegradable versions are sold at pharmacies, supermarkets, detergent shops and other commercial outlets with re-usable products also being sold online. This broad availability rightly demonstrates their volume of sales. I could state ‘popularity’ and I know people may have preference for one product over the other, but the truth is that women have to buy these products. They cannot do without them, even if they wish to and they don’t come cheap.
The truth is that women have to buy these products. They cannot do without them, even if they wish to and they don’t come cheap.
Thankfully Malta is one of two Member States – the other being Ireland – which does not charge VAT on pads, tampons and other similar products. These charges are known as the tampon tax and other countries make it even harder for women to purchase these products with VAT charges of up to 27% . The latter shameful record belongs to Hungary, which is currently in the news for other despicable measures.
Although many of us would cheerfully do without menstruation, we unfortunately cannot give it away to unsuspecting strangers or wish it away while blowing onto dandelion puffs.
Periods tend to go with pregnancy but return for 40 days with a vengeance post-pregnancy to make up for lost time (the bastard), they can stop due to stress or health problems and they can and will eventually give a hell of a long and torturous goodbye with menopause.
So, for many of us it is here for the long haul and we as a country, could and should make things easier for our women and girls. We could follow Scotland in its trailblazing example and provide sanitary products free of charge to those who truly cannot afford them, or better still for anyone who needs them.
It would not change the world or indeed Malta but it would make some women and girls lives easier.
Wouldn’t that be nice?
About Dot Borg: Divorced, working mum, avid reader and sometimes angry writer. Loathes single socks, prone to bouts of road rage and selective amnesia.