SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA, October 4, 2018 — Following announcement of the revised Gender Equality Basic Ordinance, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will launch a pilot program to dispense free menstrual pads in toilets at ten public facilities starting on October 8 in a move designed to ensure the right to health for women and improve their daily life during the periods.
The free pads will be provided by two types of vending machines: ① the one that women can get the pads just by pulling the lever; and ② the one that they put a coin provided from the information desk into a machine to get a one. The type of machine to be installed has been decided by each facility after taking into account of a possible misuse of the free pads.
The provision of free menstrual products has been constantly requested by citizens, and it also reflects internationally increasing social interest. In 2016, New York City declared to become a “free tampon city,” and started to provide free tampons at more than 800 public schools. The Scottish government also has provided sanitary goods to all the secondary schools and universities throughout the country since September 2018.
In Korea, people are growing more and more interest in offering free pads after several media reports in 2016 about low-income girls who cannot afford their own sanitary products. In 2017, citizens sent many favorable responses to some college students who set up a free pad box for homeless people as well as ordinary citizens in need at Yeongdeungpo Station.
In 2018, one women’s right group temporarily implemented a “public pad project” that allows anyone who needs it can use it freely and anyone can offer it. Dobong-gu, one of the city’s 25 autonomous districts, revised its law about public toilets, and installed free pad machine at Changdong subway station last September.
According to the survey conducted in June, 92% (1,350) of respondents answered that they agree to install free sanitary products vending machines at public places. The city government carried out the survey after receiving proposals from the citizens to provide free pads during the World Women’s Day event on March 9, 2018. It was conducted on the city’s online forum Democracy Seoul for a month from June 19 to July 18, and a total of 1,475 citizens participated in the forum – 1,350 (92%) agreed and 109 (7%) disagreed.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government plans to provide vending machines, sanitary pads, coins and posters to the facilities that participate in the pilot period, and figure out the number of daily usage and analyze the citizens’ opinions. Also, it will publish an operating manual at the end of the year to promote the free pad program. Based on the analysis, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will expand this program in 2019 and carry out a campaign to spread it.