Efforts underway to end 'period poverty' in Japan

Japan Times -- Apr 30
As the coronavirus pandemic puts strain on the economy, Japan is finally moving toward tackling the phenomenon of “period poverty” facing many women. But campaigners say there are a number of hurdles still to overcome in a country that has often treated menstruation as a taboo subject.

The central government last month decided to set aside funds to support women who cannot afford to purchase sanitary items such as pads or tampons, while some municipalities have launched programs to distribute the goods for free.

The moves come amid growing calls for gender equality in Japan, a country that languishes in last place among developed nations in female empowerment, with a big gender gap in earnings.

Most women, for whom monthly menstruation generally lasts from their teens into their 50s, in principle need to keep purchasing sanitary goods, and sometimes painkillers, too, for dozens of years.

However, cuts in jobs and wages due to the economic downturn spurred by the coronavirus pandemic have shed light on the difficulties many women face in paying for such products — an issue that had previously gone under the radar.

Despite menstruation being a natural bodily function, discussion of related issues has been hampered in a country whose two major religious traditions — Shinto and Buddhism — have long shunned blood for its “uncleanliness.”

According to the World Economic Forum report, the average Japanese woman’s income was 43.7% lower than that of a Japanese man’s.

#MinnanoSeiri, an advocacy group calling for equal access to period products, said about 20% of its survey respondents struggled to purchase such item due to financial reasons.

- Japan Times