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Council Looks To Expand Free Tampon And Pad Access To All Schools, Shelters And Prisons

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March 24, 2016 Staff Report

A week after free tampon and sanitary pad dispensers were installed at 25 New York City schools, the City Council has proposed legislation that would expand this service to all schools as well as homeless shelters and prisons.

Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito have sponsored three bills that would bring menstrual hygiene products to women in any of these City institutions.

One of these bills would require all public schools, from elementary to high school and including charters, to provide menstrual hygiene products in their bathrooms.

This bill is not Ferreras-Copeland’s first effort to provide menstrual products to City students. Last September, she brought a free dispenser to the High School for Arts and Business in Corona; last Monday, she announced a similar program in 25 schools in Queens and the Bronx.

Another bill focuses on the Department of Corrections, which currently provides 144 sanitary pads per 50 inmates per week – or less than three per inmate – according to Ferreras-Copeland’s office. Additional, brand-name pads can be purchased by inmates through the commissary.

The new legislation would require the DOC to provide any female inmate with tampons or pads immediately upon request and at the facility’s expense.

A third bill would require the Department of Health to provide menstrual hygiene products to any female shelter residents.

“When over half of New York City’s residents experience menstruation, it is crucial to acknowledge their needs and show value and respect for their bodies by making menstrual hygiene products widely and easily available,” Ferreras-Copeland said in a statement. “These items are as essential as toilet paper, helping us prevent health risks and fulfill our daily activities uninterrupted. No student, homeless individual or inmate should have to jump through hoops, face illness or feel humiliated because they cannot access pads or tampons.”

Ferreras-Copeland and Mark-Viverito, alongside Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, have also sponsored a resolution aimed at the State Senate pushing for a tax exemption for menstrual hygiene products.

A State Assembly bill with this purpose was unanimously approved last week and is awaiting a decision from the State Senate.

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