Period products are now free to anyone in Scotland who needs them, nearly two years after the country’s parliament passed a landmark piece of legislation.
The initiative makes Scotland the first country in the world to provide free sanitary products, as part of a global effort to end “menstrual poverty” – or lack of access to tampons or sanitary towels due to prohibitively high costs.
Monica Lennon, the legislator who submitted the draft proposal for the Period Products Act in 2020, tweeted that Scotland may be “the first but not the last” country to offer free menstrual products.
“We are witnessing a massive culture shift where stigmatization of menstruation is no longer tolerated,” Ms Lennon said in an email to DailyExpertNews. “There is more emphasis on menstrual wellness and a renewed focus on addressing medical misogyny.”
Northern Ireland is considering a similar measure and New Zealand and Seoul are offering free menstrual products in schools. “It gives me hope that we won’t be the last country to put access to free menstrual products in the law books,” Ms Lennon said.
Shona Robison, the Scottish Minister for Social Justice, echoed Mrs Lennon.
“Providing access to leisure products is fundamental to equality and dignity, and removes the financial barriers to access,” she said in a statement. As the cost of living rises and many make difficult choices, she added, “We never want anyone to be in a position where they don’t have access to menstrual products.”
Scotland’s 2020 legislation came on the heels of an earlier law that allowed free access to tampons and sanitary pads in schools, colleges, universities and other public buildings. Now every municipality in Scotland is required to consult with local communities to determine the best access point for menstrual products. In her email, Ms. Lennon said products from the time would be available in libraries, swimming pools, public gyms, community buildings, town halls, pharmacies and doctor’s offices.
People can find the nearest location with free period products through a mobile app called PickupMyPeriod. The app allows users to filter which products are available and how to find them at the location. Home delivery is also possible.
When the bill was drafted, Ms. Lennon and the other bill writers said they considered the issues of menstruation for people dealing with poverty, homelessness, abusive relationships and health problems.
The coronavirus pandemic only exacerbated those problems, according to a 2020 study by the nonprofit Plan International UK. The group found that nearly a third of girls and women aged 14 to 21 had problems paying or accessing sanitary products that year during the first nationwide lockdown.
In the United States, a 2021 George Mason University study showed that 14 percent of women entering college had menstrual poverty by 2020. The study found that Latina and black women were disproportionately affected.
Seventeen states and Washington, DC, have passed laws requiring free access to period products for students, according to Alliance for Period Supplies, an advocacy group. Broader push to repeal the state tax on the sale of menstrual products such as pads and cups, known as the tampon tax, has come in fits and starts. Proponents of the tax repeal argue that supplies such as tampons and sanitary towels should be tax-exempt, while others argue that states need the revenue. At least 32 states have taken steps to abolish the tax, and 13 have succeeded so far.