LONDON – Scotland is the first country in the world to make contemporary products freely available to anyone who needs them, after defining legislation was passed in Parliament on Tuesday.
The measures are aimed at eradicating “period poverty” – or the circumstances and, in some cases, excessive spending – that have prevented many from accessing health products when they need them.
Shortly after Tuesday night’s vote, Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, posted on Twitter that she was “proud to have voted in favor of this groundbreaking legislation”, which she called “an important policy for women and girls”.
Scotland also made history two years ago when it began providing free health care products to students in schools, colleges and universities under a government program. Wales and England followed similar programs last year to provide free health care products in schools.
The new Scottish law builds on the previous measure, introducing a legal right to free access to tampons and sanitary napkins in schools, colleges, universities and all other public buildings.
Monica Lennon, the legislator who introduced the bill, thanked the groups that played a key role in the bill, including the Scottish Girl Guides, and said co-operation efforts within the government had led to success.
“We have shown that this Parliament can be a progressive force for change when we work together,” Ms. Lennon said in a statement before Parliament before Tuesday’s vote. “Our prize is the opportunity to attribute epoch-making poverty to history. In these dark times, we can bring light and hope to the world tonight. “
Legislators within the political spectrum supported the bill during the final debate and praised Ms. Lennon and others for making it a reality.
Aileen Campbell, the community and local government cabinet secretary said before the vote that the passage of the bill would “send a very clear message to the scotland we want to be”.
He said that “it is clear that everyone in this Chamber agrees that no one in our society should suffer the disrespect that they lack the means to meet their basic needs and that access to seasonal products is essential for equality and dignity”.
It wasn’t just the cost of the products that was a problem. There are a number of circumstances that make menstruation difficult for women and girls, the bill’s authors say, including poverty, homelessness, abusive relationships and certain health conditions. Some transgender people may also have difficulty accessing health care products.
And the problem was exacerbated by the coronavirus epidemic, a study published earlier this year by Plan International UK, a global children’s organization.
The survey showed that nearly a third of girls and women between the ages of 14 and 21 were confronted with purchasing or accessing health products. While schools across the UK have been supplying periodicals for free since last year, schools and youth centers closed during the pandemic, more girls were left without the necessary supplies, the group said.
“This is more important now than ever because the periods don’t stop in a pandemic,” Ms. Lennon said in Parliament.
He and other lawmakers have also made it clear that there is still work to be done to combat stigma and confusion during periods.
“Once everyone has access to contemporary products, our next steps are to ensure that women’s health in general remains high on the political agenda in Scotland and to end the stigma surrounding menstruation,” the local news agency, The Scotsman before the vote.