Scotland becomes first country to end ‘period poverty’ with the offering of free menstrual hygiene products

"This is so often characterized as a women's issue, but it is not. It is a social justice issue, an equalities issue, and a rights issue."

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Scotland is the first country in the world to try and end “period poverty.” With many women lacking access to menstrual hygiene products, The Scottish Parliament took a step forward with the approval of legislation to make such products freely available.

The Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill, which passed 112-0, comes on the heels of the country’s 2018 decision to offer free menstrual hygiene products to students in schools, colleges and universities country-wide, the Guardian reported. The bill would launch a program making pads and tampons free for all at designated public places such as pharmacies and community centers to name a few.

“Scotland has already taken important steps towards improving access to period products and tackling stigma, but legislation will guarantee rights, ensure that current initiatives continue in future on a universal basis, and will help us achieve period dignity for all,” Monica Lennon, Scottish Labour Party politician, said.

Introduced by Lennon in 2017, the bill would cost an estimated $31.2 million yearly if implemented, Reuters reported, and help normalize menstruation. Lennon said the passage of the bill would be a “milestone moment for normalizing menstruation in Scotland and sending out that real signal to people in this country about how seriously parliament takes gender equality.”

“Period poverty” affects many women not just in developing countries, but in developed nations world-wide where menstrual hygiene products are treated as luxury items. This type of poverty not only has major health risks, but stops women from living their daily lives causing them to miss school, work, etc. because of accessibility and affordability.

“This is so often characterized as a women’s issue, but it is not. It is a social justice issue, an equalities issue, and a rights issue,” Alison Johnstone, member of Parliament, said. “It is estimated that a woman will, over her lifetime, spend approximately £5,000 on period products. Being financially penalized for a natural bodily function is not equitable or just. Being unable to afford or access period products denies women access to education, work, sport and so much more.”

While Scotland was the first county to provide free menstrual products to students, England has since launched a similar program and several states in the U.S. are trying to ban taxes on such products, NPR reported.

The Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill will now enter its second phase where proposed amendments will be made.

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Ashley is an editor, social media content manager and writer at NationofChange. Before joining NoC, she was a features reporter at The Daily Breeze – a local newspaper in Southern California – writing a variety of stories on current topics including politics, the economy, human rights, the environment and the arts. Ashley is a transplant from the East Coast calling Los Angeles home.

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