This week, the Scottish parliament passed a landmark legislation that has made period products such as sanitary pads and tampons free of cost to those people who need them.
The bill is titled, “Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill” and was passed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament on November 24, making Scotland the first country to take such a step.
The passage of the legislation
From September 2017 to February 2018, the Scottish government offered free period products to women on low incomes in Aberdeen as part of a trial. Following this, in May 2018, the government announced that it would extend the pilot scheme across Scotland.
Subsequently, in August 2018, Scotland became the first country in the world to introduce access to sanitary products to all students in schools, colleges and universities. In January 2019, the government announced a £4 million worth of funding to local authorities to expand the provision of free products in the local communities.
The bill was introduced by lawmaker Monice Lennon in April 2019 with the aim of tackling “period poverty”, which is when some people who need period products struggle to afford them.
One of its central objectives is to “end the silence and stigma” that surrounds menstruation and also aims to remove “gendered barriers”. The bill aims to ensure that those who menstruate have “reasonably convenient” access to period products free of charge.
Essentially, the bill places a duty on Scottish ministers to ensure that period products are made available free of charge on a universal basis and it also requires education providers to make period products available free of charge in on-site toilets. 📣 Express Explained is now on Telegram
What is ‘period poverty’?
The idea behind such a legislation is that certain circumstances make access to sanitary products difficult for women and trans people. These include homelessness, coercive, controlling and violent relationships and health conditions such as endometriosis.
A survey released by Young Scot in March 2018 said that among the respondents who completed their survey, the prospect of free sanitary products was very popular, with many feeling that the existing options were “too expensive”. One of the implications of the survey was that one in four respondents at the school, college or university level found it difficult to access sanitary products.
What does the bill propose?
The bill defines period products as the “means manufactured articles the purpose of which is to absorb or collect menstrual flow”. The types of period products covered under the law include tampons, sanitary towels and articles that are reusable.
According to the law, local authorities will need to ensure that period products are generally available free of cost. Similarly, education providers have to ensure that period products are obtainable free of charge by pupils and students and some specified public service bodies have to ensure that period products are obtainable free of charge in their premises.
How will this work?
The scheme proposed under this law will operate on an opt-in basis, which means that anyone can request access to period products, free of charge throughout Scotland, regardless of age, gender or income. “By operating on such a basis the bill will also ensure that those with no fixed address or homeless people will also have access to the period products they need,” the bill states.
Significantly, while the bill does not prescribe a specific number of products that a person may collect on each occasion, it does allow the government to prevent people from obtaining more products than they reasonably need.
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