Scotland has become the first country in the world to make period products free and it’s about bloody time! The bill passed unanimously on 24 November through the Scottish Parliament. In what is seen as a truly historic moment for the global movement to end period poverty.
Ensuring free period products for all is a progressive step in order to tackle period poverty. Period poverty is the lack of access to period products due to financial constraints. However, the impact of period poverty has often been dismissed by stating that period products are cheap. This argument is one that overlooks many hardships and cost sacrifices that those suffering from poverty have to make.
According to Plan International UK, 1 in 10 girls in the UK can’t afford to buy period products. 1 in 7 have struggled to afford them. As a result of this, many girls have resorted to missing school. Several also feel embarrassed by their periods. The stigma surrounding periods is one that can affect many young and impressionable schoolchildren. Who may go a significant portion of their lives carrying this shame.
Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill
Under the bill, period products such as pads and tampons must be available for free to people who require them. The bill ensures that local authorities, education providers, and specified public service bodies must provide period products free of charge. It is estimated to cost around £8.7 million a year. Additionally, they will also be free to people visiting Scotland.
The bill was spearheaded by Monica Lennon MSP (Member of Scottish Parliament) in an effort to make period products a basic necessity. Lennon is a member of the Labour Party and was promoted to Spokesperson for Health and Sport in 2018. What originally began as a grassroots campaign in 2017 has finally made its way to Scottish Parliament three years later. Her consultation document highlights many details of the bill. It also covers vital issues such as period stigma, endometriosis, and period poverty.
Across the world, millions of women and girls are ostracised during their monthly periods and some are banished to sleep alone in huts, to miss school and made to feel dirty and inferior. Menstrual bleeding isn’t dangerous or shameful. It’s completely normal. What is dangerous and shameful is the failure of governments around the world to challenge this prevailing gender inequality, especially when it risks lives.Monica Lennon
The Scottish Parliament
The Scottish Parliament is made up of elected representatives who are known as Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs). The current state of the Parliament is a Scottish National Party majority (SNP). Their party leader, Nicola Sturgeon, is the current First Minister of Scotland.
Scotland is known for its reforming bills, with the most well-regarded one being free university with no tuition fees. As the Covid-19 pandemic has hit many families financially, Nicola Sturgeon recently announced a £100 million support package to help people get through winter.
It will include money to help people pay their fuel bills and make sure children don’t go hungry. It will offer additional help for the homeless and fund an initiative to get older people online and connected. And it will provide a cash grant of £100 for every child in receipt of Free School Meals as a result of low income.Nicola Sturgeon
She also announced a one-off £500 bonus payment for NHS (National Health Service) staff. To thank them for their service during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Other countries should follow suit
Scotland being the first country in the world, is only an example to follow. In fact, many countries have taken the first step to tackle period poverty. New Zealand announced earlier this year in June, plans to provide free sanitary products in schools across the country. Scotland first announced in 2018 that schools would be providing free sanitary products. Wales followed suit last year and England earlier this year.
A bill as historic as this was achieved through cross-party support. Cross-party support is integral to making progressive changes to our society that affect the livelihood of many.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many have struggled to afford basic necessities. The number of those facing period poverty has risen significantly. There are many ways to help as a community, such as donating to a local food bank. If you’re able to donate, The Trussell Trust can help you find your nearest foodbank here in the UK. Here is also a list of non-food items that are required. There is still a long way to go to ending period poverty. But this initial step to acknowledge period products as a basic necessity and not a luxury product is fundamental.