Scotland is now the first country in the world to sign a law making menstrual products free for all. The bill for Free Provision on Period Products was unanimously approved by MSPs on Tuesday. Labour MSP Monica Lennon introduced the bill and has been campaigning to end period poverty since 2016. With the new rule in place, this now puts legal duty on local authorities to ensure items such as tampons and sanitary pads will be available for free to anyone who needs them.
Period poverty has been an issue for low income individuals who cannot afford such products suited to their needs. The average cost of tampons and pads finds many women struggling to afford £8 a month to purchase these with the average period lasting about five days.
In a report from the BBC, survey research revealed that about 10% of girls in the UK are unable to afford these. On the other hand, about 19% had to change to less suitable products due to cost.
"Periods don't stop for pandemics and the work to improve access to essential tampons, pads and reusables has never been more important," MSP Lennon said.
Aside from period poverty, the new bill also focuses on period stigma. Studies show that this a particularly strong issue for young girls between the ages of 14 and 21. About 71% of these girls felt hugely embarrassed to buy period products. Researchers found out that half of the girls who participated in the study have missed school because of their periods.
Logistics on distributing these products are now at the hands of Scotland's 32 councils to manage practical arrangements on ease of access to these items in a manner that provides reasonable dignity for anyone in need of them. A proposed scheme of distribution has been put on the table modelled after the system of distribution for free condoms already in operation.
At present, the government has provided funding amounting to £5.2 million to provide free tampons, pads and reusable products in schools, colleges and universities. On top of this, £4m was given to councils to expand the provision to other public places, adding another £50,000 for free provision in sports clubs.
In some business establishments, such as pubs and restaurants, owners have been providing these products free of charge as a gesture of goodwill.
The scheme will need to be operational within two years of the legislation becoming law.