It's official — Scotland has approved plans to make pads and tampons free and readily available for everyone, making it the first nation in the world do so. Free menstrual products are already available in schools and universities in Scotland, yet the trailblazing new legislation would make make menstrual products available at designated public places, including "community centres, youth clubs, and pharmacies."
In an unanimous vote on Tuesday, the 'Period Products (Free Provision) Scotland Bill' passed through its first stage with 112 votes in favour, reports Reuters. According to the publication, Scottish MP Alison Johnstone asked during the debate: “Why is it in 2020 that toilet paper is seen as a necessity but period products aren’t?" Adding: "Being financially penalised for a natural bodily function is not equitable or just."
Fellow Scottish MP Monica Lennon, who introduced the bill last year, said it was a "milestone moment for normalising menstruation in Scotland" during the same debate, Reuters reports. She added that the new legislation is "sending out that real signal to people in this country about how seriously parliament takes gender equality.”
Lennon also acknowledged transgender and non-binary people, saying the bill "was designed to be inclusive of everyone who menstruates," says CNN.
The bill will now be subject to amendments as it moves into a second stage, before it is given final consideration in stage three. If made law, the bill is predicted to cost the government an annual cost of £24.1 million pounds.
"Across the UK, grass roots campaigners have already delivered significant change on period poverty. It's now time for Scotland to put access on a legal footing, lead the rest of the UK and the world,” Lennon told Scottish Parliament back in 2019.
Period poverty has been at the centre of some significant political discussions in the past couple of years with the UK seeing a number of grassroots campaigns, including Amika George's #FreePeriods campaign.
According to a 2017 report by Plan International UK, one-in-ten women and girls in the United Kingdom have struggled to afford period products, resulting in school absences, low self-esteem, and stigma. Currently, sanitary products in the United Kingdom are taxed at 5%. Reuters reports that former Prime Minister David Cameron’s government said it wanted to end that “tampon tax”, but that its hands were tied by European Union rules which set tax rates for certain products.
The government announced it would drop the tax in 2016, but this has not yet happened yet, Reuters reports.
As Lennon said: "access to period products should be a right and available to all." Here's hoping Scotland's plans will prompt the rest of the UK to follow suit.