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Thursday, April 02, 2020

A look at Scotland’s proposed law to make sanitary products free for all

Referring to “period dignity”, the legislation aims to develop a universal system in Scotland, which will provide free sanitary products for “anyone who needs them”.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: March 1, 2020 1:52:59 pm
A look at Scotland's law to make sanitary products free for all Feminine hygiene products are seen in a shop in Perthshire, Scotland, Britain February 25, 2020. (Reuters Photo: Russell Cheyne)

Scotland may become the first country in the world to end ‘period poverty’. The Scottish Parliament Tuesday passed the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill that aims to make sanitary products free for women of all age groups.

The Bill has only passed the first hurdle to become a law. It still needs to be considered by a parliamentary committee, following which it will require approval from the parliament. It will finally need the Royal Assent of the Queen.

The Bill was introduced by lawmaker Monica Lennon. “I say it every week, but I promise it has been a busy and worthwhile week in Parliament. I appreciate all the good wishes about the #freeperiodproducts Bill…” she tweeted, after it passed the first stage.

Critics of the legislation, such as Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government Aileen Campbell, pointed out in January this year that the passing of the Bill would put the responsibility of the provision of these products “entirely on the Scottish Government”. “We must consider carefully whether legislation is the best way of achieving the desired benefits,” she said at the time. She also noted that the proposed costs were “underestimated” and that it was not clear whether the Bill is to help those who cannot afford period products or for everyone.

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What is ‘period poverty’?

‘Period poverty Scotland’ website mentions some circumstances that make menstruation a “difficult experience” for women. These include homelessness, coercive, controlling and violent relationships and health conditions such as endometriosis. “Some trans people may also experience difficulties in accessing sanitary products,” it says.

As of now, in Scotland, the provision of free sanitary products is already available in schools, universities and colleges.

Referring to “period dignity”, the legislation aims to develop a universal system in Scotland, which will provide free sanitary products for “anyone who needs them”.

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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 Scotland’s Bill propose?

If the Bill is passed into law, one of its central objectives is to “end the silence and stigma” that surrounds menstruation and also aims to remove “gendered barriers”.

One of the primary aims of the Bill is 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. It also requires education providers to make period products available free of charge in on-site toilets.

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The Bill defines period products as the “means manufactured articles the purpose of which is to absorb or collect menstrual flow,”.

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