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Tampons Were 'Banned' During These Medical License Exams in Canada

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Many girls and women around the world lack access to hygiene products, which impacts their health, education and all around life. You can take action on this issue and more here.

After students taking the Medical Council of Canada (MCC) licensing exam were forced to disclose if they were bringing menstrual products with them to their tests, medical professionals took to social media in an effort to create change.

Many are now criticizing MCC for essentially banning hygiene products in the exam room, the Star reports.

Take Action: #ItsBloodyTime: Urge the Government of South Africa to Fund Menstrual Health & Sanitation

At the start of the exam, MCC staff collects students’ personal belongings and returns them upon completion of the test. Under the MCC policy, anything aside from products like keys, papers, books, wallets, and the like are considered an “accommodation.” The policy considers menstrual products one such “accommodation,” according to the Star.

Alana Fleet, board chair of Resident Doctors of Canada and second-year University of British Columbia resident told the Star that her organization has been pushing back on MCC about this for two years.

“Previously the policy was that you had to pre-register up to six weeks in advance for anyone that had an accommodation,” Fleet told the Star.

Imagine studying for exams to become a licensed medical professional and having to map out your next period, because you’d need to remember to register your pads and tampons for exam days.

Fortunately, the policy changed earlier this year after pushback, so menstruating students no longer need to pre-register their “accommodations,” but they still need to tell examiners about their menstrual products on the day of the exams.

On Oct. 27, the night before part two of the medical exams, people in the medical community started the hashtag #TamponGate on Twitter to express their concerns.

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An online petition was also launched by Michelle Cohen, the advocacy chair of non-profit organization Canadian Women in Medicine, urging the MCC to lift the ban on exam takers bringing and having to disclose menstrual products.

“The MCC’s universal ban on exam writers bringing menstrual hygiene products into exam facilities is wrong and needs to end immediately,” the petition reads. “Subjecting people who require menstrual hygiene products to additional scrutiny under suspicion of cheating is discriminatory against those who menstruate.”

Cohen told the Star that the petition had almost 500 signatures by Tuesday night.

A statement issued on Oct. 27 by the MCC promised a review of its policy and said it would provide menstrual products in women’s bathrooms. It also issued an apology on Oct. 29, according to the Star.

The MCC website now says: "The MCC has committed to a review of its current practices, and we are fully committed to the principles of fairness, equity and transparency. A group is being established to review current practices and we look forward to collaborating with learners to identify opportunities for improvements in these practices moving forward."

While it’s a start, critics like Cohen argue this isn’t enough.

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“Those who have specific needs for specific products will still be unaccommodated and ultimately discriminated against by this policy,” she wrote in the petition.

Fleet confirmed that there were products available when she took her exam over the weekend, but she hopes more will be done to address the fundamental issue.

Women and girls should never be shamed, unfairly treated, or made to feel uncomfortable because of their periods. While having to disclose an “accommodation,” may seem innocent, it’s part of a bigger societal problem that persists around the globe.

Lack of hygiene products force young girls to miss school in every part of the world. Stigma attached to menstruation has led to the death of girls in Nepal. Lack of sexual education has made girls sick and further perpetuated stigma.

Being able to bring menstrual products to an exam is not be a privilege, it’s a right.