A bill to provide free sanitary towels and tampons has been passed in the Scottish parliament in a world-first effort to tackle “period poverty”. Lack of access to sanitary products due to financial limitations, as period poverty is defined, affects people globally and can have a negative effect on mental health and wellbeing.
Periods typically come on a monthly cycle, meaning that having access to the necessary sanitary products is a regular necessity for some. However, not everyone has that access, which can make the bleeding window of their menstrual cycle a very stressful time.
“Impoverished women lack the necessary resources to manage their menses well which negatively impacts their health and brings stress, embarrassment, and shame,” wrote the authors of a study on period poverty in the north of England published to PLOS ONE earlier this year.
“Support, including access to free products, is needed at both local and national level to help impoverished women manage their menstrual hygiene.”
That support is now being pushed forward in Scotland as part of the Period Products (Free Provision) Scotland Bill which was first proposed by MP Monica Lennon. Elsewhere in the world, other countries are taking steps towards tackling period poverty, such as New Zealand announcing it would be offering free products in schools last year.
The move marks a “milestone moment for normalizing menstruation in Scotland and sending out that real signal to people in this country about how seriously parliament takes gender equality,” Reuters reports Lennon said during a debate.
"We are changing the culture and it's really exciting that other countries right around the world are watching very closely to see what we do,” she said.