November 24, 2020; CNN “World”

Even as the United States is immersed in an economic downturn with a particularly severe impact on the employment and income of women, yesterday, Scotland became the world’s first country to make menstrual products, including tampons and pads, free as a response to the global movement against period poverty.

Lawmakers across the political spectrum supported the Period Products (Free Provision) bill, which passed unanimously. It will provide access free of charge through public buildings (including schools) and by direct delivery. The measure even provides for some choice in what’s available.

Monica Lennon, the bill’s drafter, told lawmakers as they were preparing to vote, “We have shown that this Parliament can be a progressive force for change when we collaborate. Our prize is the opportunity to consign period poverty to history. In these dark times, we can bring light and hope to the world this evening.”

Aileen Campbell, the cabinet secretary for communities and local government, says the new law is “a very clear message to the kind of Scotland we want to be.”

Everyone in this chamber agrees that no one in our society should have to suffer the indignity of not having the means to meet their basic needs and that being able to access period products is fundamental to equality and dignity.

The bill carries an attendant cost of £8.7 million. It does not come out of the blue, however; Scotland has long made attempts to tackle the issue after surveys revealed that one in ten girls and women in the UK suffered from period poverty and nearly half of women aged 14 to 21 were embarrassed by their periods and periodically missed school because of them. Indeed, in 2019. England began its own initiative to provide free sanitary products in schools, with New Zealand following suit in 2020.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted:

Lennon says the work’s not done, “Once access to period products is secured for all, our next steps must be ensuring women’s health in general remains high on the political agenda in Scotland,” she says.—Ruth McCambridge