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Ann Arbor, Mich. Becomes first U.S. city to demand free period products in public restrooms

The city of Ann Arbor, Michigan, has dealt a blow to menstrual poverty by requiring that all public toilets have a stock of menstrual products.

Ann Arbor City Council on Monday unanimously passed an ordinance defining period hygiene supplies as essential sanitation products on par with soap or toilet paper. The rule requires bathroom operators to make them accessible from the start of 2022.

Mayor Christopher Taylor said the measure was “a necessity and a long wait.”

“Access to these items is a matter of personal dignity, a human necessity and a right to health care,” he told the council.

It appears to be the first law of its kind, building on earlier bills passed by US states and cities requiring menstrual products in school bathrooms, public buildings, homeless shelters. and prisons.

Activists hailed it as a victory for women and others who are menstruating. “It really gives anyone who is menstruating a piece of mind that they don’t currently have,” Nancy Kramer, founder of Free the Tampon, told CNN. “It just helps us not to have a potential level of embarrassment or humiliation.”

Michela Bedard, executive director of the nonprofit PERIOD, said it was possible that another city somewhere in the United States had made a similar move without fanfare, but it was the first major city to adopt a such rule.

Menstrual poverty remains a problem in the United States. A 2019 study found that two-thirds of low-income women in St. Louis, Missouri had struggled to access menstrual hygiene products in the past year, with one-fifth facing this situation every month.

In many states, these products are still taxed as luxury goods (often referred to as a “stamp tax”) and cannot be purchased using government benefits such as food stamps. “It is a crisis that has been completely ignored in our country,” Ms. Bedard told CNN.

The UK did not end the stamp tax until early 2021, when period products ceased to be classified as ‘non-essential luxury items’.

The Ann Arbor ordinance makes no distinction between men’s and women’s toilets, although it does allow an exemption for places of worship where the provision of sanitation products would violate religious beliefs.

The Independent Gt

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