Why Are Women Mailing Tampons to the Australian Immigration Minister?

Could a tampon change the lives of female asylum seekers and refugees in Australia?

That’s the hope of Destroy the Joint, a feminist group who is seeking justice for female asylum seekers and refugees who are forced to ask officers for tampons or maxi pads repeatedly, because they are only given one or two at a time.

The group has asked supporters to mail unused tampons and sanitary napkins to Scott Morrison, Federal Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, to send the government a message that this humiliating treatment of women must come to an end. Many women have obliged, making Morrison’s daily mail a bit more interesting these days. Take a look on Twitter under #stopthetampons and you can see some pretty creative D.I.Y. tampons, like some of my favorites below:

The Department of Justice claims that the accusations are “nonsense,” “completely false” and “misleading,” but according to an organization called RISE (Refugees, Survivors and Ex-Detainees), they’re very true. RISE points to an article written by a refugee advocate’s recent visit to a detention center which states:

Sanitary pads are doled out one at a time, so women need to repeat the humiliating ritual of requesting a fresh one each time they needed to replace a soiled one.

Women should have access to feminine hygiene products at their will, not at the will of officers who guard them. Seeking asylum is not a crime, but denying women basic rights and dignity is.

While having to ask for a tampon every time you need one is unnecessarily humiliating, the issue is actually much more complex. Destroy the Joint coordinator Jenna Price tells The Sydney Morning Herald:

The issue is that there is a continued attack on the health care of women in our detention centres. Tampons are a symbol of a lack of health care… it’s symbolic of the terrible health care that our asylum seekers and refugees get across the board.

Unfortunately this problem is not isolated to Australia. A report from Human Rights Watch has found that in the United States women in detention centers often face delays when seeking medical care or are denied entirely. Life-saving services such as pap smears to detect cervical cancer, mammograms to check for breast cancer, counseling for survivors of violence, and even basic supplies such as sanitary pads, like in Australia, are hard to come by. Of the treatment of women in detention centers Meghan Rhoad, researcher in the women’s rights division at Human Rights Watch, says:

Women in detention described violations such as shackling pregnant detainees or failing to follow up on signs of breast and cervical cancer, as well as basic affronts to their dignity. Because immigration detention is the fastest-growing form of incarceration in the United States, these abuses are especially dangerous. They remain largely hidden from public scrutiny or effective oversight.

A report from the ACLU found similar violations for women in Georgia detention centers. On top of the medical concerns, the ACLU report also found inadequate living conditions and frequent abuse by those in power.

Clearly reform is needed both in the United States and internationally to address the needs of women in detention centers. Refugee and asylum seekers are often victims of rape, sexual abuse and other forms of torture and trauma before being detained. Adding these violations to the list of abuses many women have already faced is wholly unjust.

For now you can help female asylum seekers and refugees in Australia by signing and sharing our Care2 petition.

Photo Credit: @AkosuaHeather via Twitter

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Jennifer Burden
Jennifer Burden1 years ago

not cool.

Kelsey Valois
Kelsey Valois1 years ago

Pretty idiotic, honestly. Asylum is refugee, in an attempt to stay safe from whatever threat, humiliation may be one threat, so give these women some damn freedom!

Biby C.
Biby C.1 years ago

Isn't that a bit third-world?

Don Swanz
Don Swanz1 years ago

SOFIA B: A quote from your Post: "but I do not see why the author would lie about her experience at this particular detention centre" and "Rat" is a metaphor.

Her hair looked "shitty". The truth!

Her hair: "It might not be at its best". Sounds to me like political BS and half truth (lie?) at best. Don and WE CAN! :-))

Sofia B.
Sofia B.1 years ago

Don S: I fail to see how your quote had anything to do with my post or the subject. Of course people lie, I never said they wouldn't, just that I saw no reason why the article in GreenLeft would present falsehoods. If you know any reason they might or proof they have done so before please share - although it's an interesting subject, Australian immigration isn't something I will spend time researching further on my own.

I have to side with Suba regarding rats, from what limited personal experience I have I would say they are very honest animals.

When it comes to women's hair I'd like to point out that there are a million shades between outright falsehood and blunt honesty. Next time you might try saying "It might not be at its best" rather than "It looks totally shitty" - unless the point is to drive her away (and then there are usually better ways, too).

ps. anyone else irritated that there is no indicator on when a comment reaches the point where it will be cut off??

Alorha Breaw
Alorha Breaw1 years ago

*Sigh*... I guess it's true, when we lose sight of our humanity, even concerning the most basic of needs, we lose everything.

Don Swanz
Don Swanz1 years ago

SOFIA B: This is one (1) of the best quotes that I could find about lying in a short period of time>

“I always say the truth is best even when we find it unpleasant. Any rat in a sewer can lie. It's how rats are. It's what makes them rats. But a human doesn't run and hide in dark places, because he's something more. Lying is the most personal act of cowardice there is.”
― Nancy Farmer, The House of the Scorpion

Now, let me say, that we all lie. The one (1) and only time that; when asked, I told a woman that her hair looked "shitty". She did not speak to me for over a year. Looking back, I think that I cam out ahead in the end. Don and WE CAN! :-))

Sofia B.
Sofia B.1 years ago

Also, no-one has mentioned alternatives to disposable, one-use-only pads and tampons. Personally I started using a menstrual cup (when quite a heavy bleeder) and though the first month included some trial and error, after my second period I wouldn't trade. Since then (6-7 years ago) I've had some changes and experienced using it with very light bleeding also, which is even easier. And due to being made of medical grade silicone (most versions anyway) and how the cup traps the blood instead of soaking it in there is no risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome even if only taken out and washed every 12 hours (alternative when only light bleeding or over night, during the day with heavy bleeding it might need to be emptied every couple hours or so).
Before I tried the moon cup I didn't really have a problems with pads, they were okay, while I didn't like tampons at all, so it's not like a really felt I needed something different, I was just interested in an alternative to use-and-throw.

There are also washable pads and alternatives to tampons that I haven't tried but heard good about (and not only through the internet but in face-to-face discussions too).

Although depending on the sanitary conditions in the detention centres reusables might be slightly more tricky than disposables, but if they are up to Western standards (like having access to hot water, and maybe a mild soap) it shouldn't be a problem. And the cost of reusables are surprisingly quickly regained compared to the amoun

Sofia B.
Sofia B.1 years ago

You really should read the link in the article (https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/54941)

Living on the other side of the world I don't follow Australia's politics and media, so I have no idea what reputation GreenLeft has, but I do not see why the author would lie about her experience at this particular detention centre.

I also reacted to people automatically assuming the guards were men, I thought they'd be mostly women, but apparently a lot of guards were male (the article doesn't specify any numbers). Even more worrisome than only getting a pad or tampon at a time I find how she says nutrition is poor for the children and pregnant women living there, how baby food is rationed and that a baby is only given three diapers a day - even when having diarrhoea!

Asylum seekers and immigrants is a tricky problem, having a detention centre with over 1500 persons in it is not a good solution, but what would be considering the amounts of Asians trying to get to Australia? Then is should also be taken into account that policies may be good even though there are failings in practise. But reading that the asylum seekers are identified by "boat number" instead of name by the guards raises red flags for me.

Jane C.
Jane C.1 years ago

If I had any tampons left I would mail them.