Image: MSP Monica Lennon (second left) with campaigners against period poverty outside Scotland’s Parliament in February.
By Rob Picheta and Ivana Kottasová, CNN.
London (CNN). Scotland has become the first country to allow free and universal access to menstrual products, including tampons and pads, in public facilities, a landmark victory for the global movement against period poverty.
The Scottish Parliament voted unanimously in favor of the Period Products bill on Tuesday, months after lawmakers had initially signaled their support.
It means period products will be available to access in public buildings including schools and universities across Scotland. According to the new rules, it will be up to local authorities and education providers to ensure the products are available free of charge.
“The campaign has been backed by a wide coalition, including trades unions, women’s organisations and charities,” Monica Lennon, the lawmaker who introduced the bill last year, said ahead of the vote. “Scotland will not be the last country to make period poverty history.”
After the vote, Lennon said the decision was “a signal to the world that free universal access to period products can be achieved.”
The bill’s accompanying financial memorandum estimates it could cost around £8.7 million a year by 2022, depending on the number of women who will take advantage of the free products. In a document supporting the legislation, Lennon said it was reasonable to expect 20% uptake of the scheme given the fact that official inequality statistics show that nearly 20% of women in Scotland live in relative poverty.
The new law was praised by a number of equality and women’s rights groups as well as politicians from across the parties represented in the Scottish Parliament.
“Proud to vote for this groundbreaking legislation, making Scotland the first country in the world to provide free period products for all who need them. An important policy for women and girls,” Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on her official Twitter page after the vote.
She had no sanitary pads. No one knew and no one helped
One in 10 girls in the United Kingdom have been unable to afford period products, according to a 2017 survey from Plan International UK. The survey also found that nearly half of all girls aged 14 to 21 are embarrassed by their periods, while about half had missed an entire day of school because of them.
Scotland’s move follows a string of recent attempts to tackle period poverty in the country.
In 2018, the government announced that students in schools, colleges and universities across the countries would be able to access sanitary products for free, through a £5.2 million investment. In 2019, it allocated another £4 million to make period products available for free in libraries and recreational centers.
England last year also launched an initiative to provide free sanitary products in schools, and New Zealand did the same earlier this year.
CNN’s Harmeet Kaur contributed reporting