In a world first, the country of Scotland has made a decision that will impact the lives of millions: Free sanitary products for all.
Period poverty is a big issue that’s seldom discussed. A study of UK girls found that 15% have struggled to afford them and 19% have changed to a less suitable product due to cost.
There is also a real problem with period stigma. A recent study found that 74% of 14 to 21-year-old girls in the UK felt embarrassed buying period products.
Those reasons and more is why Scottish parliament approved plans on Tuesday of this week to make sanitary products freely available to all women.
The legislation would make tampons and sanitary pads available at designated public places such as community centres, youth clubs and pharmacies, at an estimated annual cost of 24.1 million pounds ($31.2 million).
The Period Products (Free Provision) Scotland Bill passed through its first stage with 112 votes in favour, none against and one abstention. It now moves to the second stage, where members of the devolved Scottish parliament can propose amendments.
It will be a landmark event in the movement to make menstrual hygiene a basic human right.
This isn’t the first time Scotland has made such a bold and life-changing move.
In 2018, Scotland passed a bill that gave students at schools, colleges and universities access to free sanitary products as part of a £5.2m scheme to fight period poverty. The Scottish government was the first in the world to make sanitary products available free to all of its 395,000 pupils and students.
“We will continue our world-leading action promoting wider period dignity through a certification scheme to encourage organizations to provide free products,” Aileen Campbell, Scotland’s communities secretary, said.
The new legislation would put a legal obligation on the government to provide free sanitary products to “everyone in Scotland who needs to use period products” with councils and other “public-facing bodies” required to provide sanitary towels and tampons.
It’s a choice that more countries should make.
According to 2017 research from Plan International UK, one in 10 of girls have been unable to afford sanitary products. The survey also found that 15% of girls between the age of 14 and 21 have struggled to afford sanitary wear, 14% have had to ask to borrow sanitary wear from a friend due to affordability issues and 12% have had to improvise sanitary wear due to affordability issues.
Way to go, Scotland!