The issuing of a fine to a 20-year-old woman who was caught stealing tampons has sparked a crowdfunding campaign that has so far raised over £1,400.
Police in Coolgardie, Western Australia, handed out a criminal code infringement notice under relatively new legislation that enables on-the-spot fines instead of a lengthier arrest and charge process.
But as the box of tampons taken by the woman was worth $6.75 (approximately £3) and the flat rate theft fine is $500 (approximately £236), many are outraged that the police didn't use their discretion to either issue a caution or decide against taking any action.
Now a crowdfunding page set up to pay the fine is attracting donations at a rate of knots, with the total at time of writing having soared past the $3,000 mark (approximately £1,413).
Some backers are symbolically donating $6.75, the cost of the box of tampons, and many have pointed out that if the woman was desperate enough to steal tampons then it's unlikely she'll be able to pay a $500 fine.
Amy Rust, the founder of the Essentials 4 Women SA project providing sanitary products to homeless women, set up the page, writing: “I’m thankful everyday I’ve never found myself to be in such a position whereby I can’t afford basic hygiene products like tampons but I damn well show a bit of empathy and understanding for those who can’t.”
She told Guardian Australia: “For us it doesn’t matter what kind of criminal history you have, if you are put in that sort of position you are on the bones of your arse.
“How can [a fine] that’s 74 times the amount be justified?”
Backers wrote supportive messages, including, “Wish this was a viral story about a kind cop who bought her a year supply of sanitary products and a meal out to boot. Sadly, no,” while another simply said, “She deserves dignity”.
At present there are difficulties getting the money raised to the woman involved in this case as police in Coolgardie said they would not release the details of a person issued with a fine under any circumstances.
The incident is serving to once again highlight the issue of how homeless women or those with serious financial issues struggle to deal with periods. The crowdfunding page links to several projects trying to combat the issue. Visit the page here, or find out more about #thehomelessperiod project in the UK by watching the video below.
Images: Thinkstock, thehomelessperiod.com