Brazil's president vetoes plan to distribute free pads and tampons

Brazil’s president vetoes plan to distribute free pads and tampons


President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil has stopped a plan to distribute free pads and tampons to vulnerable women and girls, igniting criticism in the country where period poverty is widespread.

According to research on period poverty in Brazil, about 1 in 4 girls miss out on school because they do not have access to the sanitary products they need.

Bolsonaro decided to veto part of a bill that was designed to provide free pads and tampons to those in economically vulnerable situations, prisoners, and teenagers at state schools.

Lawmakers, including Tabata Amaral, one of the bill’s co-authors, have said they will fight the veto, because girls are continuing to miss out on school in Brazil when they are menstruating. Bolsonaro justified the decision by saying the bill was unfair because it prioritised free sanitary items to one group over others.

Currently, it is estimated about 713,000 girls in Brazil do not have access to a bathroom, and about 4 million do not have appropriate and adequate hygiene facilities at school.

“The lack of minimum sanitary conditions for people to deal with their menstruation affects dignity, bodily integrity, health and well-being, being a disrespect for human rights and a condition that distances the country from achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said in a statement last week.

“Menstruation is a natural condition in the cycle of growth and development and care with menstrual management must be part of the actions of the public authorities and health policies. The elaboration and implementation of public policies that guarantee menstrual health is urgent.

“Difficulty in accessing services and menstrual poverty can be factors of stigma and discrimination, often leading to school dropouts. Many people who menstruate still suffer from stigmas related to menstruation, which can cause discomfort, psychological distress and impact on their self-esteem for life.”

People in Brazil shared their frustrations with Bolsonaro’s decision on social media, using hashtag #LivreParaMenstruar.

On Twitter, Tabata Amaral wrote: “23% of girls aged 15 to 17 cannot afford to buy tampons. The fight against menstrual poverty is also a fight for education! We will do everything to have this veto overturned in Congress.”

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