For our last Women’s Wednesdays and to round off International Women’s Month, we are going to be highlighting the monumental policy change that happened this past November in Scotland.
The Period Products (Free Provision) Scotland Bill has moved to create period equity by making it so that period products such as pads and tampons are free in public places to all that need them. Schools and colleges now must ensure that period products are freely available. For Scotland, they estimated that this would cost about 24 million pounds a year which is about $32 million.
The unanimously passed bill came at the hands of a multitude of women in activists groups, Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and Monica Lennon, a member of the Scottish Parliament who introduced the bill and championed the campaign for this bill. Lennon has been campaigning for the end of period poverty since 2016.
On the day of the bill passing, she tweeted, "A proud day for Scotland and a signal to the world that free universal access to period products can be achieved.”
Period equity has long been a problem around the world. For the UK, it was reported that in a survey of 2000 students, 1 in 4 have difficulty gaining access to period products. This, of course, has been tied to missing school which ultimately affects a young menstruator’s education. This isn’t just in the UK; within the US, 25% of students missed class because of their lack of access to products. Along with this, 61% of students have worn disposable products for more than 4 hours, putting them at risk for Toxic Shock Syndrome, because they didn't have access to more products.
Access to period care has been impacted by costly taxes that are imposed on these goods. This is the Tampon Tax - which, according to Bridget Crafword and Emily Waldman, is imposed on products that are specifically for a portion of the population based on biological function. In some countries, period care is considered a luxury good like cigarettes and jewelry, making the taxation unfair. In the US, 30 states impose a sales tax on tampons and pads, and these products cannot be purchased with food stamps.
These issues of affordability have been furthered with the pandemic. There is also a stigma behind not only periods, but also behind not being able to afford period care for oneself. Scotland is the first to pass a bill like this, and with it, this stigma is slowly being alleviated and normalizing discussion around periods and period equity. They stress its importance by saying that they “believe [period care] is fundamental to dignity, equality and human rights.”