Non-profit activist group PERIOD at Ohio State petitions to eliminate the luxury tax on tampons at the Ohio Union. Credit: Courtesy of PERIOD at Ohio State

PERIOD at Ohio State, a nonprofit activist group, plans to petition Ohio State to provide free menstrual products in all restrooms across campus, including women’s and men’s.

The group — which officially formed Oct. 1 — is a chapter of the national organization that aims to combat period stigma and period poverty. Anusha Singh, a second-year in neuroscience and president of PERIOD at Ohio State, said the national nonprofit PERIOD identified 10 out of nearly 200 chapters around the world that are pushing for policy action on campuses and are working their way up.

Singh said PERIOD thinks it is important to provide menstrual products in all restrooms on campus, because it is not only a woman’s issue.

“We recognize that women are not the only people who menstruate and we strive to be more inclusive and help the LGBTQ community as well,” Singh said. “Ultimately, we hope to get menstrual products into all bathrooms or at least begin stirring that conversation.”

Singh said PERIOD is especially focused on engaging the LGBTQ community at Ohio State given the community surrounding campus.

“We know Columbus has one of the largest LGBTQ communities,” Singh said. “[Columbus] Pride is so huge here, and so eventually we want to get it into all bathrooms, regardless of the female and male gender designation.”

Singh also noted that half of their team is made up of men.

“We also want to emphasize that it’s not just a women’s issue, so you don’t have to be a woman to sign our petition,” Singh said. “There are many men who signed it.”

Undergraduate Student Government launched a tampon accessibility pilot program in January, which is now a fully backed program by Ohio State: More than 90 bathrooms on campus have access to free menstrual products, USG Vice President Shawn Semmler said.

Even so, Bakshin Kaur, a second-year in molecular genetics and educational chair for PERIOD, said the group’s goal is get the product to every building on campus, including academic buildings and residence halls. Singh said its first focus is on getting products into the residence halls.

“We know it’s hard to get it into every restroom on campus starting out, but we hope to do a pilot program where we would get it into all the dorms first where they can supply you with menstrual products alongside toilet paper,” Singh said.

While PERIOD has not officially collaborated with USG yet, Singh said the group is in the process of officially connecting with them. Semmler, a fourth-year in finance, said USG is looking forward to collaborating on the issue.

“[PERIOD] is doing great work. They are using a grassroots advocacy approach on the program that we implemented,” Semmler said. “It’s groups like this that take the initiative to lean on an issue that you want to help raise up.”

USG’s goal is to not leave any bathroom on campus untouched, but will prioritize high traffic areas first.

“We are going to keep doing everything we can to be inclusive as possible,” Shamina Merchant, USG president and a fourth-year in information systems, said. “As far as the exact timeline of what that looks like, I don’t know yet but we are trying to move forward as quickly as possible and continue to expand. The priority will begin with high volume areas in general.”

Singh said the group plans to put together a budget and get the logistics in place before taking it to USG and the university, but the focus for now is on petitioning.

“This petition will emphasize the importance of the issue. That’s what we hope to do. This is something that needs to be prioritized and kind of draw attention to it,” Singh said. “So we have the passion element in, now we need to think about the practicality of it. That when we engage USG.”

Singh said PERIOD also wants to engage with janitorial staff because they are ultimately responsible for the stocking of the products.

The group plans to begin gathering signatures on the petition next week, Singh said. They don’t have a set goal for the number of signatures they hope to get, but the group gave themselves until the end of December to collect names.

“We really want to make sure the people signing the petition are people affected by this,” Singh said. “[We want] a number that makes a difference that makes the administration take our efforts seriously and reflects what Ohio State students really want.”

Singh said PERIOD has been working with Ohio House Rep. Brigid Kelly (D) to push Ohio House Bill 61, which aims to eliminate the luxury tax on purchasing tampons in Ohio, one that is not placed on products typically used by men, like Viagra.

“We find it so bizarre how menstrual products have a luxury tax on them almost like they are not grouped into the category of medical necessities even though over half of the population menstruates,” Singh said. “This is a fight for gender equality at the end of the day.”

PERIOD has a separate petition to remove the luxury tax on purchasing tampons that has gathered over 1,100 signatures so far out of 1,500, according to its petition. But Singh said the goal is to collect 100,000.

“It’s a pretty big number,” Singh said. “This won’t happen next month or the month after that but definitely it’s a longer term thing we are working on because a bill won’t pass that fast.”

PERIOD also plans to take take this issue beyond Ohio State’s campus and into other communities in Ohio.

“For us once we get this accomplished at Ohio State we want to take it to other areas, like middle schools, high school and other colleges,” Kaur said.