Scotland made history on Tuesday, becoming the first country in the world to make period products free for everyone.
The Scottish Parliament unanimously voted to pass the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Act, which places a legal duty on the government to ensure that period products are free and available to all who need them.
The new legislation is the result of a four-year campaign to tackle and bring an end to period poverty in the country. Period poverty is the inability to afford or gain access to period products, such as tampons, liners, sanitary pads, and menstrual cups. It is also the lack of access to menstrual education, washing facilities, and waste management.
Scottish Parliament member Monica Lennon, who introduced the bill in 2019, called Tuesday’s vote “a proud day for Scotland.”
“This will make a massive difference to the lives of women and girls and everyone who menstruates,” Lennon told the Guardian. “There has already been great progress at a community level and through local authorities in giving everyone the chance of period dignity.”
In 2018, Scotland made period products free and accessible in every school, college, and university in the country. The new law will incorporate and solidify this measure. Period products will also be available in all public buildings and facilities.
The legislation is expected to cost around £8.7 million ($11.6 million) per year.
While period poverty does not affect every single person who menstruates, it is much more rampant than one might think.
According to a study conducted by the grassroots group Women for Independence, nearly one in five women have experienced period poverty in Scotland. Another study published by Plan International UK reveals that one in ten girls in the UK are completely unable to afford period products. The global coronavirus pandemic has only made this worse.
Of course, period poverty is not just a cisgender women’s issue. It can affect all people who menstruate, including transgender and nonbinary people.
In the UK, people who menstruate typically spend around £13 ($17.37) per month on tampons and pads, and many struggle to afford the cost. Not being able to afford period products can not only cause people who menstruate to miss work and school, but it also lead to urinary tract infections and reproductive health issues.
Ensuring that period products are free and accessible to all who need them will create a more fair and equitable society and allow all people who menstruate to reach their full potential.
“We have shown that this Parliament can be a progressive force for change when we collaborate,” Lennon said before the vote on Tuesday. “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. Scotland will not be the last country to make period poverty history.”
In the US, there are currently no state or federal laws mandating free period products. Only four states have passed laws requiring schools to provide students with free period products.
Some states have outlawed the tampon tax — the sales tax on tampons and other period products that are exempt on other basic health necessities. The UK has also moved to scrap the tampon tax, although the ban does not go into effect until January 2021.