Female medical staff in China given pills to delay periods


World, Asia

Reports of prioritising conserving suits over menstrual health invite flak from all over the world

According to the official All-China Women's Federation, women account for the majority of nurses and doctors on the frontline force (AFP)

Beijing: Reports of China’s female medical staff, who are in the frontline fighting the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak in the country, struggling to find access to menstrual products are receiving much criticism from all over the world.

Many of these frontline workers battle with ill-fitting equipments and have their heads shaved.

A Shanghai university hospital, which praised the “woman warriors” that made up 79 percent of its reinforcement team to Hubei, said it was donating 200 bottles of pills to “postpone female team members' 'unspeakable' special periods.

The hospital later defended itself, saying the women took the medication voluntarily.

As the world marked International Women's Day yesterday, women in China rallied against measures they deem discriminatory as the government races to contain the crisis.

Shanghai resident Jiang Jinjing became concerned about how female medical workers were dealing with their periods, after workers spoke out about avoiding using the toilet to conserve their protective suits.

The 24-year-old asked about the issue on China's Twitter-like platform Weibo, and received thousands of comments, including urgent anonymous appeals from women in Hubei.

“Many female medical workers sent messages, saying their periods were really causing a lot of trouble,” said Jiang, who launched a donation drive of sanitary products.

“Can't even eat or drink all day while wearing the isolation suit, let alone change sanitary napkins,” one told her.

Her efforts galvanized individuals and companies to send more than 600,000 sanitary pads and period-proof underwear, which can be worn for longer, to frontline workers.

Not essential

China ordered fast-track routes for emergency supplies entering Hubei province -- but sanitary products weren't initially considered necessities.

Some hospital officials have turned the donations away, Jiang said, because they didn't have “sufficient awareness of this issue”.

“The leaders are all male comrades,” one nurse in Hubei's Shiyan city said, who asked to remain anonymous.

While the provincial leaders are overwhelmingly male, women account for the majority of nurses and doctors on the frontline, according to the official All-China Women's Federation.

Jiang also had to face trolling from online critics.

“Even human lives can't be protected, why care about that issue in the crotch of your pants?” one wrote in response to her campaign.

But Jiang and her volunteers remain unfazed.

“We're very happy that we can do a little work for women's rights,” she said.