Scotland is set to become the first country in the world to make tampons and sanitary pads free for all women. A historic, life-changing bill known as the Period Products (Free Provision) Bill passed through the first stage of the Scottish parliament on 25 Feb. and with all parties in support, there was 112 votes in favour, none against, and one abstention.
The goal is to make period products readily available to anyone who needs them — being stocked in community centres, youth clubs, and pharmacies. The bill was introduced to Scottish Parliament by Monica Lennon MSP on 23 April, 2019 but that’s not where her campaign to end period poverty began. In 2017, Lennon launched a period poverty consultation with the goal of modelling a universally accessible system, much like the NHS’s C-card system, which makes condoms, lube, and other sexual health items available for people between 13 and 24 years old. “For too long, menstruation has been a taboo subject,” she said at the time. “My proposals would make Scotland a world leader in tackling period poverty.”
Scotland has led the charge on ending period poverty for years, consistently working to bring Scotland closer to achieving period dignity. In 2018, the country made period products free for all students in schools, colleges, and universities — and England and Wales have since followed suit with similar schemes. Additionally, there are already products available in some community spaces, thanks to additional funding that has been given to local councils by the Scottish government, although this isn’t currently widespread across the entire country.
Now that the bill has passed the first stage, it will move to the second phase, where members of the devolved Scottish government will put forward amendments. Of course, the topic of affordability will come into play, which, according to Reuters would have an estimated annual price tag of £24.1 million. During the debate on Tuesday, Lennon said the passing of the bill would be a “milestone moment for normalising menstruation in Scotland and sending out that real signal to people in this country about how seriously Parliament takes gender equality.”