07/14/2016 15:29 EDT | Updated 07/14/2016 17:55 EDT

NYC Mayor Signs Free Tampons For Schools, Jails, Shelters Into Law

“These laws recognize that feminine hygiene products are a necessity ― not a luxury.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation on Wednesday making free menstrual products available in all New York City public schools, shelters and jails.

The bill had passed with a unanimous vote by the City Council in June, after council member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland proposed it earlier this year.

“There should be no stigma around something as fundamental as menstruation,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio in a release. “These laws recognize that feminine hygiene products are a necessity ― not a luxury.”

New York City Council
Mayor Bill de Blasio signing a package of legislation increasing access to feminine hygiene products for New York City’s shelter residents, students and inmates, at the High School for Violin and Dance in the Bronx, on July 13, 2016. 

The new laws will ensure free menstrual products are readily available in public school restrooms for 300,000 girls and 23,000 women in shelters, according to the Associated Press. While jails already provide free menstrual supplies, advocates say the supplies are inadequate. Under the new law, jails will have to offer feminine hygiene products to inmates immediately upon request.

“Students should be able to concentrate on their studies, New Yorkers in shelter should be able to focus on rebuilding their lives, and women in our Correction Department should be able to work toward rehabilitation and release without the indignity of inadequate access to tampons and pads,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The legislation makes New York City the first city in the nation to proactively guarantee access to menstrual hygiene products, according to the city council.

Tampons and pads can be unaffordable for many women, costing an estimated $18,000 over a lifetime. The new law is meant to reach low-income women and girls who need them the most.

“No young woman should face losing class time because she can’t afford or simply cannot access feminine hygiene products,” Ferreras-Copeland said in a release earlier this year. “Providing young women with pads and tampons in schools will help them stay focused on their learning and sends a message about value and respect for their bodies.”

The Huffington Post
Council member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (front, in black) stands with dozens of women on the steps of New York City Hall announcing the expected passage of a new bill bringing free tampons to schools, jails and shelters, on June 21, 2016.

The next victory for menstrual rights in New York is expected to come at the state level. In May, the state legislature approved a bill to remove all taxes on menstrual products, according to the New York Times, and Governor Cuomo is expected to sign the bill into law later this year.

Laws like these serve to push back against cultural taboos around menstruation.

“For too long, we’ve kept silent about menstrual periods, and that silence has hurt our young people,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray in the release. “Young women hear far too many negative messages about their bodies. I’m so proud our city has chosen to send such a decisively positive one.”

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