Colleges Are The Next Battleground In The Fight For Free Tampons

Advocates argue women are paying the price of gender inequality.

A gender equality push for free tampons in colleges and university is gaining momentum.

Several student groups at the University of Arizona issued a letter Tuesday, asking the administration to address the concerns of "marginalized" people.

"All restrooms should include small trashcans in all stalls, free tampons, and free menstrual pads," they said in the letter.

Columbia University's Student Council president Benjamin Makansi announced last week that free tampons would be available to students at the school's health center starting after spring break.

The school is also "looking into future plans of installing tampon dispensers elsewhere on campus, in a similar set up to contraceptive dispensers," the Columbia Spectator reported.

A February op-ed from Barnard student Courtney Couillard helped elevate the debate on campus when she equated menstrual products with contraceptives.

"Sure, I can easily find a free condom on Barnard and Columbia’s campuses, but why can’t I find a free tampon in the bathrooms? Why does the administration care about my sexual protective rights, but not how I handle my monthly menstrual cycle?" she wrote.

“"When we menstruate, however unexpectedly, we should not feel fear in the pits of our stomachs because of your lack of foresight."”

- Rebekah Rennick, Grinnell College

At Emory University, more than 900 students signed a petition in only two weeks last month to provide free tampon dispensers in main campus restrooms.

“Nobody should ever be caught off guard -- far from their dorms, on their way to class -- and have to go home,” petition writer Julie Chen told The Tab.

And one student at Grinnell College made a compelling case in an op-ed last year describing how she was forced to break into a tampon dispenser using two bobby pins.

"When we menstruate, however unexpectedly, we should not feel fear in the pits of our stomachs because of your lack of foresight," Rebekah Rennick wrote. "We are a part of this college. Provide free menstrual products to students who need them so I can stop picking the locks on your bogus machines.”

The movement to stop taxing tampons has also gained gathered strength in recent months.

Five states have repealed the sales tax on tampons and pads so far, and five new bills have already been introduced this year in other states, including Wisconsin and California, NPR reports.

Forty states and the District of Columbia still place taxes on these products, which range from 2.9 to 7.5 percent.

“Tampons and pads should be treated just like toilet paper. They serve the same purpose -- items to tend to our every day, normal bodily functions," Nancy Kramer, founder of the Free the Tampons campaign, told The Huffington Post earlier.

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