Lack of personal hygiene products: Violation of human rights for incarcerated women
It is a victory because now more incarcerated women and girls will have access to a basic necessity that supports personal hygiene and confidentiality.
It is a shame because a woman’s basic need for sanitary products has to be legislated and dependent upon the sympathetic nature of those with decision-making power. This is particularly disturbing given that the growth in the number of incarcerated women has outpaced the growth of incarcerated men in the United States.
The United States is known as one of the world’s leading incarcerator of women housing approximately, 219,000 women in some type of correctional facility whether federal prison, state prison or local jail.
Projected to cost $100,000 each year, the Oregon mandate applies to all correctional facilities in the state. Still, Oregon’s legislation will not benefit the entire body of eligible incarcerated women and girls across segments of the country without such a mandate. Other states that do not have such a mandate fail to recognize sanitary products just as essential as soap and toothpaste.
As nurses who have cared for women in hospitals and community settings, we know the consequences of poor hygiene — especially for menstruating women who are also subject to embarrassment when lacking the necessary hygienic protections during their menstrual cycles.
Women who defer to make-shift materials during this time are also at an increased risk for malodorous disorders along with a number of infectious conditions, including toxic shock syndrome, a potentially deadly condition resulting for an overgrowth of bacteria due to prolonged wearing of heavily soiled tampons.
The true cost of shame and humiliation associated with not having the proper supply of sanitary supplies in our correctional facilities is immeasurable for this population of women. It needs to be considered a violation of human rights.