Free pads vetoed:
Bolsonaro vetoes main points of the proposed bill 4968/19 – institution of the Menstrual Health Protection and Promotion Program – by Congresswoman Marília Arraes (PT-PE), which had received approval in August by the House of Representatives; in September by the Federal Senate.
The bill aimed to combat the lack of access to hygiene products needed during the menstrual period for women in precarious situations. The president was against the following points of the bill: free distribution of sanitary pads to needy elementary and high school students, women in vulnerable situations, and prisoners.
The section of the program that provided financial resources in relation to the care of female prisoners was also vetoed. The resources would be made available by the National Penitentiary Fund (FUPEN). The justification given by the government is that the law that created the Fupen (Complementary Law 79/94) does not list the application of fund resources. Another veto was the part of the law that foresaw that other expenses of the Program of Protection and Promotion of Menstrual Health would run on account of budget endowments made available by the SUS (Health Unic System) as primary health care.
The government claimed that: “the sanitary pads do not fit in the supplies standardized by SUS, so they are not in the National List of Essential Medicines, moreover, by stipulating the specific beneficiaries, the measure would not fit the principle of universality, integrality and equity in access to health of SUS”.
The article that provides for preference in the government’s acquisition of sanitary pads made from sustainable materials was also vetoed. The justification, once again, is the incompatibility with the autonomy of the educational networks and establishments, besides not indicating a monetary source or compensatory measure. With the same justification, the article that stipulated that the food baskets delivered by the National Food and Nutritional Security System (Sisan) should contain as an essential item, the pad, was also vetoed.
The vetoes will still be analyzed by the National Congress, and may be maintained or overturned.
Menstrual poverty is not only related to the lack of money needed to buy necessary menstrual hygiene products, it is characterized by a lack of access to resources, infrastructure, and knowledge on the part of people who menstruate about necessary care during this period. It affects women in rural and urban settings who live in situations of vulnerability.
In Brazil, only 30% of cities have access to adequate basic sanitation. This means that almost 35 million Brazilians do not have access to drinking water, and about 100 million do not even have sewage collection services.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) released a report that says -713,000 girls live without access to a toilet or shower in their homes, and more than 4 million do not have access to minimal menstrual care items in schools. Importantly, while about 24% of white girls reside in places assessed as having no sanitation services, nearly 37% of black girls live in these conditions.
A survey done by Johnson&Johnson Consumer Health, in partnership with Kyra Institute and Mosaiclab, identified that 94% of low-income women are not familiar with the term menstrual poverty. Not knowing the subject makes it even more difficult for them to identify the reality of vulnerability in which they live. Almost half of them are between 14 and 24 years old, which shows us that this is a problem that affects a lot of young adult women, and that is why the proposal of the program vetoed by the president is important: “the provision of free distribution of sanitary pads for needy students in primary and secondary education”.
Consequences of menstrual poverty:
Most women who are affected by this problem use products that are not indicated to absorb menstruation, causing several physical and psychological reflexes in these. Use of plastic bags, old clothes, cotton, bread, towels, cloths, coffee filters, newspaper or even toilet paper are the most common in this situation, which is reflected in the following figures:
- 28% of the women interviewed have had urinary tract infection or cystitis; 24% have had candidiasis; 11% vaginal fungal infection and 7% vaginal bacterial infection
- 22% say they feel very fragile when menstruating, due to the lack of adequate conditions to clean themselves as they would like to during this period. 9% of them do not even have a bathroom at home.
- 8% say that they always, or almost always, have to miss work when they are menstruating because the bathroom is not fit for use (lack of water, flushing or toilet paper)
- 6% have already suffered domestic violence because they are menstruating
- 16% affirm that they always or almost always miss school when they are menstruating because the bathroom is not usable. 12% affirm that they always or almost always miss school when they are menstruating because they do not have absorbents or they have some improvised absorbent.
Survey conducted by Johnson&Johnson Consumer Health, Kyra Institute and Mosaiclab Institute.