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Scotland votes for free access to period products

Timothy Jones
November 24, 2020

Scotland's parliament has voted unanimously to offer free universal access to sanitary products. The move comes as charities speak of growing "period poverty" amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Tampons and sanitary pads
Image: picture-alliance/maxppp/C. Prigent

Scotland on Tuesday became the first country in the world to make it a legal right to have access to free period products after its devolved parliament voted unanimously in favor of the Period Products Bill.

"The Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill has been passed unanimously by MSPs this evening," said a statement on the Scottish Parliament's Twitter account. 

The bill makes it mandatory for there to be a country-wide scheme to ensure everyone has access to free sanitary products. Schools, colleges and universities must also make them available for free in their toilets to all who menstruate.

The legislation also contains provisions to protect such a scheme from abuse, such as people obtaining more products than "reasonably" needed for their own use.

Read more:  India: Zomato's 'period leave' sparks debate on gender, menstruation


'An important policy'

Monica Lennon, the parliamentarian who introduced the bill after a four-year campaign, called the legislation "world-leading," but said schools should also teach about periods in such a way as to end the stigma attached to them.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon welcomed the outcome of Tuesday's vote.

"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," she tweeted.

Charities say that period poverty, where those who menstruate have difficulties paying for sanitary products each month, has reached new levels during the coronavirus pandemic.

The measure is expected to cost £9.7 million (€10.9 million, $13 million) a year.

Read more: Germany scraps 'tampon tax,' as menstrual products not a 'luxury'

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