Scotland has become the first nation to introduce free period products for all, in an attempt to end period poverty.
After four years of campaigning, the Period Products (free provision) (Scotland) Act was unanimously passed through its final stage on 24th November. Making Scotland the first country to provide universal access to sanitary products.
The members bill was introduced to Holyrood by MSP Monica Lennon, who has campaigned against period poverty since 2016. The bill aims to tackle period poverty, recognising sanitary products as a basic necessity and important for dignity.
What the Bill Means
Under the bill, the Scottish government must set up a nationwide scheme to allow anyone who needs period products to get them for free. Schools, colleges and universities must make a range of period products free in their toilets. The Scottish government will have the power to make other public bodies provide period products for free.
The bill puts a legal duty on local authorities. It is up to the local councils in Scotland to decide how the bill is implemented in each county. However the bill does need to be operational within two years. Councils such as North Ayrshire have been providing free sanitary products in public buildings since 2018.
A survey by Young Scot of over 2000 people found that a quarter of women and girls in school, college or university, have struggled to access period products. Across the UK, ten percent of girls are unable to afford period products, while fifteen percent have struggled to afford them, and nineteen percent of girls have changed to a less suitable product because of cost.
Since 2001, there has been a five per cent VAT of period products in the UK and there have been campaigns to abolish it. EU law, however states that the VAT cannot be abolished or reduced any further. Yet, the UK’s exit from the European Union in January, means that the government will be able to set its own precedence regarding the ‘Tampon Tax’, meaning that it will be able to amend the amount of VAT paid for period products.
The reaction to the introduction of the Period Products (free provisions) (Scotland) Act has been overall positive. Speaking to the Guardian, Monica Lennon said: “This will make a massive difference to the lives of women and girls and everyone who menstruates. There was already great progress at a community level and through local authorities in giving everyone the chance of period dignity”.
Period poverty is a worldwide issue and change is growing globally. Elsewhere in the UK, initiatives are tackling the stigma surrounding periods through education, and providing free period products in schools.
Meanwhile, in the US, a handful of states have passed laws mandating the distribution of free period products. A number of countries have also reduced or abolished period tax, including Kenya; Canada; Australia; India; Columbia; Malaysia, Nicaragua; Jamaica; Nigeria; Uganda; Lebanon and Trinidad and Tobago.