Scotland passed a law on Tuesday, November 20, that is a global first.
Many developed countries are taking a look at menstrual products and their cultural attachments in the past decade, with a number of states and nations passing laws requiring them to be untaxed as necessities. Scotland’s new law takes it a step further, requiring period products to be made available, for free, in public toilets and workplaces. Basically, anywhere toilet paper is freely provided
The Sanitary Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill, which was brought forward by Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon, made access to menstrual products such as tampons and pads a legal right in Scotland. It passed with a unanimous 121 votes in the Scottish Parliament of Holyrood.
“Periods don’t stop for pandemics and the work to improve access to essential tampons, pads, and reusables has never been more important,” said Lennon.
The Bill specifies that this right of free access applies to schools, colleges, universities and other public buildings, as well as all workplaces with regards to their employees. It doesn’t, it’s worth saying, mean you can walk into a grocery store and take them off the shelves.
Lennon regards this as an early step in the ongoing process to de-stigmatize menstruation, and hopes to see other nations follow suit, along with better education about the health of people who menstruate in all schools. “Scotland is an example of best practice,” she said, “and there is an opportunity for other countries around the world to learn from what we have achieved on period poverty in just a few short years.”
Period poverty is a worldwide issue, and when combined with the stigma of menstruation interferes with the education and careers of millions of girls and women.
Final costs of the bill are difficult to predict, but estimated to be no higher than £10 million a year, if every person who can take advantage of the free access does.