Scotland has recently passed a bill to make menstrual hygiene products universally available to those who need them. This makes the country the first in the world to have done so.
The Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill requires local authorities in specified public places to ensure that anyone who needs them can obtain menstrual products for free, without requiring a purchase. These designated public facilities include schools, colleges, and universities. Estimates show that the provision will cost the country £8.7 million annually, about 32 million USD. All members of Parliament voted unanimously to approve and pass the bill.
Scottish Member of Parliament Monica Lennon introduced the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill in February 2020. “The point I made is that during a pandemic, periods don’t stop. Poverty is increasing. This is needed more than ever,” she said. “And I’m really pleased that everyone in the Scottish Parliament pulled together regardless of their political party and we’ve, you know, pushed us through unanimously.”
Lennon’s provision aims to tackle period poverty – the lack of ability to manage one’s menstruation sanitarily and with dignity. Period stigma negatively impacts the lives of those who menstruate, and the scarcity of freely available menstrual products can profoundly affect those people’s health. One survey found that roughly two-thirds of teenagers have felt stress due to a lack of available menstrual products. Roughly four in five teenagers have either missed school or know a classmate who has missed class due to not having access to menstrual hygiene products, and one in five teenagers have struggled to afford, or were otherwise unable to purchase, menstrual products. Perhaps most worryingly, over 60% of people who menstruate have worn a tampon or pad for more than four hours because they did not have the ability to manage their menstruation in a healthier way. Lack of access to menstrual care puts people at risk of infection, as well as the potentially deadly toxic shock syndrome.
“Menstruation is normal,” Lennon said when she first introduced the bill in February. “Free universal access to tampons, pads and reusable options should be normal too.”
Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, praised the bill’s passage.
“[I am] proud to vote for this groundbreaking legislation, making Scotland the first country in the world to provide free period products for all who need them. An important policy for women and girls,” Sturgeon wrote on Twitter.