Oregon Passes Menstrual Dignity Law; Female Hygiene Products to be Available in School Bathrooms Regardless of Gender

A similar act was introduced in 2019 but unfortunately could not pass making this new law a huge win for those who spent years advocating for it

Oregon has become the first state to pass the Menstrual Dignity Act after Governor Kate Brown signed the contentious mandate. The Act states "all public institutions of education" are required to provide free female sanitary products in school bathrooms, irrespective of gender.

According to an official 2021 statement from the state's biggest school district, Portland Public Schools, the mandate is expected to be implemented long term, beginning 2022-2023 school year. The statement read: "starting next year (2022-2023), products will be available in all restrooms (male, female and all-gender) in every PPS building where education occurs," Fox news reported.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown
Oregon Governor Kate Brown Wikimedia Commons

"To ensure timely compliance, PPS ordered 500 dispensers. Dispensers have been installed in all elementary and middle school girls' restrooms, and more will be installed in all remaining bathrooms, including boys' restrooms, next year. Apart from this, instructions on the usage of the hygiene products will also be put up in all bathrooms.

The statement stressed on the need for students to expand their understanding on the stigma around menstruation, parents were similarly encouraged to have discussions with their children to bring down this "shame and stigma" encircling menstrual hygiene.

A Tik Tok video uploaded earlier this month showed vending machines dispensing menstrual products inside male restrooms in Oregon schools, confirming that installation of machines is already underway.

Menstrual Dignity Act
Official announcement by the Portland Public Schools on the Act Twitter

Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill, in an interview with Oregon Public Broadcasting, explained that the act was formulated to assist the school districts in understanding, "how they can be supportive of all students and what pronouns they choose to use at school."

Addressing situations if any district refuses to comply with the new law, Gill added that students are welcomed to get in touch with the Oregon Department of Education, "we are happy to come in and help the school district and the community understand the laws that are in place." As per the Daily Mail.

Oregon Department of Education had also announced the 'Menstrual Dignity for Students Toolkit' in November to better prepare district schools in adhering with the new legislation. The toolkit comes with instructions on the usage of menstrual products, has properly explained sections on faculty and staff training with tips for "menstruation-positive" language for families.

Menstrual Dignity Act

The toolkit calls for special attention toward ensuring the presence of menstrual products in all bathrooms as any lack of access might hugely impact "students of color, students experiencing disabilities, and students experiencing poverty."

It is expected that the law will expand further to incorporate all public education institutions by July 2022, requiring them to install at least one dispenser in each bathroom. What's more, depending on the student body size and the number of menstrual product dispensers needing to be installed the schools will also be receiving state funding, according to Aunt Flow. Aunt Flow is a business that offers schools and MNCs across North America freely accessible period product dispensers and other related services.

Surprisingly, this act is not the first of its kind legislation which attempted to address matters related to menstrual stigma and shame. In 2019, a bill quite similar to the Menstrual Dignity Act was introduced but unfortunately could not get the green light. Hence, this makes the new law a big victory for many students and youth campaign groups who advocated for such an act for years.