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Efforts underway to end 'period poverty' in Japan, despite hurdles

31 Comments
By Ami Takahashi

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...and spends 1,000 yen per month for sanitary products

If a large segment of the population cannot afford 1000 yen/month for these products, it's not "period poverty", is just plain old "poverty".

23 ( +27 / -4 )

With menstruation generally occurring monthly in women from their teens into their 50s, most women, in principle, need to keep purchasing sanitary goods and often painkillers, too, among other items, for dozens of years.

Anyone, and I mean, anyone, reading along with JT who didnt know this already, has to be a hermit living in a cave, and a man!

This is totally unnecessary and condescending as hell to the intelligence of the readers here!

-3 ( +9 / -12 )

@girl_in_tokyo

The entire point of his/her comment just went flying right over your own head, didn't it?

He/she is not only supporting the initiative but highlighting an underlying problem (of general poverty) that also needs addressing.

19 ( +22 / -3 )

I would argue these items are essential, not luxury items. Certainly shouldn’t be taxed at all. And the excuse that it’s a taboo subject is at best an adolescent argument. Says volumes about societies mindset towards women.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

It is insane that something as essential as sanitary goods has any consumption taxes taken on them at all. Medicine, too.

13 ( +15 / -2 )

... Might be my experience only, therefore biased, but I don't think periods are seen as a tabu in Japan. I've had work colleagues and female friends plainly announcing and discussing in front of men they're on their period, for example, without too big of a concern for our delicate ears :).

What's a real tabu in Japan though is the poverty - and that can put a child on her period in traumatic situations. I don't see why hygiene products aren't or shouldn't be offered for free. I put them in the same category as the soap and toilet paper, available in most public toilets for example.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

I support this.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

@girl_in_tokyo

The entire point of his/her comment just went flying right over your own head, didn't it?

He/she is not only supporting the initiative but highlighting an underlying problem (of general poverty) that also needs addressing.

He was intentionally being dismissive by using quotes around period poverty as if it's not a real thing, and then intimating that the problem doesn't particularly deserve special attention because poverty is poverty.

I'm tired of people sidling up to sensitive issues and trying to stir controversy while pretending that isn't what they're trying to do, so that when they get the critical reaction they were looking for in the first place they can disingenuously protest.

It's contemptible and it's cowardly. If you feel butthurt that issues that particularly effect women are getting attention, just say it explicitly.

Or is it that you simply don't have the capacity to understand how the words you use might be construed in this political context, and you are unable to frame your ideas more carefully? In other words, you're either being contemptuous about women's issues, or else you're just utterly inarticulate.

-13 ( +7 / -20 )

At one time tampons were developed that could be used for much longer than normal ones. The idea was that changing them less frequently would be more convenient. This seemed like a good idea, but there was an unfortunate side effect, toxic shock syndrome. That is why they were withdrawn from the market. Some women using them actually died as a result.

It is surprising that there was no mention of the danger involved in not changing tampons using the same one for too long.

However, perhaps the best way to address this issue is, as some have pointed out, to address the issue of poverty. When 1,000 yen/month, the price of a pint in many pubs, is a problem, poverty is what needs to be addressed.

If mothers cannot afford 1,000 yen/month for sanitary products, can they afford to feed their kids properly?

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Agree completely that there needs to be less pussyfooting around this, get rid of the tax, get rid of the embarrassment. But tying this valid issue to the myth of the wage gap is rather ridiculous. I can't think of any job where women are paid less than men who do the same work. Certainly not my workplace. I have never seen a job at that says, "1500 yen/hour for men, 1000 for women".

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

If the cost of women's sanitary needs is a problem, think if how even more of a problem it is when these women also have children not only do they need these supplies but if they have girls they need them also on top of other basics as the for mentioned soaps, toothpaste, toothbrush, proper nutrition, etc..

Yes this is article is specific to women's needs but it is a view into general poverty which women are more often those in poverty.

Just dealing with this is barely a pinprick, food, daily hygiene products make up a far bigger portion of their monthly expenses.

As a single father of a girl and boy, I know what it cost me every month for her sanitary products, I also know what I spent on other hygiene products and food, both food and the other basics like soap, shampoo, etc... equaled if not surpassed the female sanitary costs food was in a completely different category.

If the goal is to reduce or help in poverty especially for women then just this will not help much but it is a start.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

girl_in_tokyo

He was intentionally being dismissive...

If someone in Japan can not afford an outlay of 1,000 yen/month for hygiene, then they probably cannot afford to live a decent life in general. This is wrong.

I support assistance for women, and discounted/free feminine hygiene products would do that, but is such a discount necessary for all women? Those in actual poverty (be they male or female, young or old) should first get any offered financial aid before any well-to-do women.

And by the way, my gender pronoun is "She".

7 ( +9 / -2 )

I support assistance for women, and discounted/free feminine hygiene products would do that, but is such a discount necessary for all women?

The article clearly says -- 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.

This being Japan I imagine it will be tedious to get such support but it is a step in the right direction.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

divindaToday 11:51 am JST

If someone in Japan can not afford an outlay of 1,000 yen/month for hygiene, then they probably cannot afford to live a decent life in general. This is wrong.

The problem is the contempt that was being shown for issues in poverty that impact women in particular. I have yet to see an acknowledgement or apology for that. Is one forthcoming? Somehow I doubt it.

-7 ( +4 / -11 )

[...] big gender gap in earnings.[...]

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

Said this before and will say it again. This has a reason. Men are in the workplace longer, put in more work hours, and seek more positions of responsibility compared to women (thus they get more promotions). So this is a really lazy and invalid point due to this being mainly due to womens' choices.

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.

 [...] cuts in jobs and wages due to the economic downturn spurred by the pandemic have shed light on the difficulties many women face affording such products

What's really dangerous about this is that this article correctly points out that this is a phenomenon caused by the pandemic. It's good that women are looking out for other women and that they get the support they need, but I think that this may leave male people in the dust....

the survey of a total of 671 women in high schools, vocational schools, and universities conducted online between February and March, 27.1 percent reported using something in place of sanitary items as they could not afford pads or tampons

This is the really dangerous part. The age groups interviewed are, by majority, still living with their parents and normally covering any expenses of their own. So, this really implies that EVERYONE (including men who by majority generally provide for these age groups) is making less money - not only women. And I suspect that this has implications for the male counterparts of society as well, which - if not examined and addressed properly and equally - could lead to a problem which transcends the boundaries of the sexes.

woman menstruates from the age of 12 to 50 for five days a month and spends 1,000 yen per month for sanitary products, the lifetime bill will reach 500,000 yen including tax

This statement is false and/or misleading for two reasons.

1.) 1000JPY1238 = 456,000JPY, subtract the years that the girl is financially dependent on her parents (1000JPY1212 = 144,000JPY), = 312,000JPY on average for a woman.

2) Considering that a majority of women who leave home have married or are living with their boyfriends, you would have to divide the average expenses for sanitary goods by the percentages that are carried by their (mostly) male counterparts in society. In Japan, a majority of households have the woman managing the finances.

(of course there are cases that differ from "the majority" in that there are some minorities where this isn't the case, but even then you can't base social standards on minorities. Thus, I argue that the calculation of sanitary goods was made lazily, since I don't want to assume it was made in bad faith.)

So, good for the women who get to save a few bucks but sad to see that this golden opportunity wasn't equally used for the entirety of society. For example, medicine and health-care (where you could easily have included the sanitary goods and MORE) and other sectors where people suffer from currently living on the bare minimum. Of course, you would actually have to make a gigantic effort - but it would have been one EVERYONE benefits from regardless what they have between their legs.

It's not that I'm personally affected by this either way, since I'm a well-earning man - but the short-sightedness of this leaves me feeling sympathy with those that are not so well off - be they man or woman.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

@girl_in_tokyo

As a single father that raised both a girl and boy, I know the cost.

I also know what services 3 available to single mothers but not single fathers,

I was always on the low end of income, while my female colleagues were permitted to leave on time from work especially those with children, I was not as I was a man and expected to remain like the rest of the men and when it became apparent to the companies that as a single father this was not possible then I was fired.

Yes far more women are low income, but at the same time far more support is available only for low income women that are not available to men, companies make exemptions for female employees especially those with children single or not, which they absolutely will never do for men.

I know the problems women have especially single mothers as most of the women I knew while raising my children were single mothers and I know what they had available and what I had, something as simple as government housing, puts low income single mothers, then low income women followed by low income elderly before a low income single father.

Welcome to how the system works.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

In most cases it’s just drinking a Frappuccino and buying an expensive new handbag at the newest Ginza stores and then suddenly those days come, having not the few coins left for those products. If you then also forget to look into your calendar before and call your sugar daddies for some fast support, because of playing too much with the newest smartphones, then it’s too late. I can understand that problem as a man. lol

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

Well it seems most people are agreed about removing tax and making them freely available. Let's do that.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Lidl in the Republic of Ireland leading the way.

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/lidl-to-offer-free-period-products-to-customers-from-next-month-1.4541159

1 ( +2 / -1 )

There are small independent companies run by women producing reusable sanitary products but very very expensive to buy. Seems to me we should be looking in this direction and it will also be good for the environment

2 ( +2 / -0 )

1.) 1000JPY1238 = 456,000JPY, subtract the years that the girl is financially dependent on her parents (1000JPY1212 = 144,000JPY), = 312,000JPY on average for a woman.

I'm not sure if they included tax in the 1000 yen, or meant 1000 plus tax. Also, it didn't say who was paying. It's still an extra burden on the girl's parents. And if the family are in poverty, it's a heavy burden.

"woman menstruates from the age of 12 to 50 for five days a month and spends 1,000 yen per month for sanitary products, the lifetime bill will reach 500,000 yen including tax"

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If a large segment of the population cannot afford 1000 yen/month for these products, it's not "period poverty", is just plain old "poverty".

I agree with this. Not least because the woman in question will still be poor (and in most cases, still massively disadvantaged) after you have provided her with some free sanitary products.

I suspect this expression may have been inspired by people already talking for years about "fuel poverty" for the elderly. Home heating is a much larger proportion of income, and a lack of heat could potentially kill an old person from hypothermia or what Japanese call "heat shock", cold-related heart attacks and strokes. As divinda says, since the cost of sanitary products is so low, you would expect most women with period poverty to also have food poverty, housing poverty, transport poverty, education/self-development poverty, health and dental poverty, and of course savings and pension poverty. In a caring society, all of these matter.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Free tampons will save men a lot of money. My youngest daughter moves out this fall and I will be done paying for period products. Money in my pocket.

Just buy all girls a menstrual cup. They last for a couple of decades and are better for the environment. One, and done.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Interesting reaction to link posted

At least one person doesn't

think women should have free sanitary products

think Lidl shouldn't be doing the job of a government

think people struggling with money should get anything free
1 ( +1 / -0 )

Once more Japan shows itself to be way behind the curve of other developed nations.

The taxation system needs an overhaul and that is the problem...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

A. The period is why men do not want women in combat situations in the military.

B. Most women still use guards and pads after menopause.

C. Hygiene items should be free to the public paid for by the tax payers, including diapers, school items, uniforms and book-bags.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

If spending 1,000 yen on sanitary products is too much for someone, I doubt lowering the sales tax on that specific item from 10 to 8% would give them too much of a saving. If lowering the sales tax is a fix to period poverty, then why not having those items, as well as diapers and other basic needs products be free of sales tax? That would make a huge difference.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

This is similar to the 2019 story in Canada where the women in the military were complaining about free sanitary needs.

Some time ago the military decided to supply fee sanitary products to female members in the same way they supply shaving products to the men.

But like the products supplied to the men they were/are crap and like the men few if anyone used them.

Now for decades the junk razors and shaving cream provided wasn't a big issue, most men went out and bought their own stuff if they didn't like what was provided.

But for some reason this was not something the women wanted to do, they wanted to choose for themselves.

Now shaving daily with those junk razors provided by the military will rip your skin off after a while but I guess that is just fine as long as the women are comfortable.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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