Scotland has made history as the first country in the world to provide free and universal access to period products to its citizens.
MSPs unanimously backed the legislation on Tuesday which was introduced by Labour’s Monica Lennon after years of campaigning.
The Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Act not only tackles period poverty but also symbolises a shift in attitudes towards menstruation. People who menstruate have long been left unsupported, with 1 in 5 stating that they have experienced period poverty in their lifetime. The problem starts young, around 10% of girls in the UK have been unable to afford period products and 15% have struggled to afford them.
Period poverty has caused a greater rift in an already unequal society. Those who can’t afford menstrual products may be forced to miss school, depriving them of education. It is another barrier in a system that is already stacked against them.
The act ensures all people have a right to access period products, acknowledging them as a necessity rather than a luxury. This legislation not only makes sure all those who menstruate are treated with dignity but also breaks stigmas surrounding periods.
Lennon started campaigning to make period products accessible when she was elected in Holyrood in 2016. She said that the fight to end period poverty became all the more vital in the mists of a global pandemic. “Periods don’t stop for pandemics and the work to improve access to essential tampons, pads and reusables has never been more important.”
“This will make a massive difference to the lives of women and girls and everyone who menstruates. There has already been great progress at a community level and through local authorities in giving everyone the chance of period dignity.
“There has been a massive change in the way that periods are discussed in public life. A few years ago, there had never been an open discussion of menstruation in the Holyrood chamber and now it is mainstream. MSPs have enjoyed being a part of that, and it has encompassed the menopause, endometriosis, as well as the types of products we use and their sustainability.”
The landmark bill puts a legal duty on local authorities to provide period products to those who need them. The act was made possible by nationwide grassroot support and followed in the footsteps of North Ayrshire who have provided free tampons and sanitary towels to their constituents since 2018. The legislation shows what progress can be made when women are in charge. Nicola Sturgeon congratulated Monica Lennon and Aileen Campbell, Cabinet Secretary for Communities & Local Government, who worked hard to make this legislation possible and have empowered future generations who will now be unhindered by period poverty.
This is not only a proud day for Scotland, but hopefully a day which paves the way for a world where people are supported, not shamed, during their periods.
Words by Ella Calland