Scotland has legislation requiring free menstrual products

Scotland has legislation requiring free menstrual products

Period products in a shop in Perthshire, Scotland in 2020.Period products at a store in Perthshire, Scotland, in 2020. RUSSELL CHEYNE (Portal)

Scotland continues to make history for women’s free period products and as of Monday became the first territory in the world to enshrine in law the right to free access to them. The commitment reinforces regulations already in place in areas such as schools or universities and extends them to all public spaces through the entry into force of what is known as the Products of the Rule Act, which was unanimously approved by the Scottish Parliament in November 2020.

The legislation is groundbreaking and despite full support for its passage, the Scottish National Party (SNP) government initially met with some reluctance, concerned about the difficulties in implementing the proposals. But thanks to the campaign by the regulation’s supporter, Labor MP Monica Lennon, in partnership with groups campaigning to end so-called menstrual poverty (referring to a lack of resources to buy basic hygiene products), Scotland is seeing a precedent , which increases the pressure on other administrations to pursue similar strategies.

The challenge is remarkable, as the activists themselves admit, who have been calling for free products for years. From today, local authorities and education managers must guarantee that they are available to those who need them at no additional cost. However, the claim is not entirely new, since around 27 million pounds (around 32 million euros) have been invested in Scotland since 2017 to enable access to these sanitary products in public spaces.

The culmination of this widespread action in legislation unifying the obligation would not have been possible without the involvement of local authorities and organizations involved with the matter, according to Monica Lennon herself, who describes today’s historical precedent as “a Another major milestone to be demonstrated marks the difference that progressive and bold policy decisions can make.” The regulations’ entry into force also coincides with the cost of living crisis in the UK, a country which is expecting a particularly complicated time with the approaching winter in which inflationary pressures will force citizens to make major resignations.

For the organizations that have been demanding this measure for years, period products should be as accessible and ubiquitous as toilet paper in public restrooms. One in four women in Scotland has at some point had difficulty buying pads, tampons and other period products, according to a study conducted before the pandemic by Hey Girls, a social enterprise dedicated to tackling period poverty. In their reports, they collect the accumulation of cases such as those of mothers who have to choose between these products or who have to feed their children, which means that they have to resort to alternative home-made formulas, such as stuffing socks with newspaper or bread.

The Scottish Government itself this Monday admitted that providing free access is “essential to equality and dignity”, especially given the “difficult choices” that rising prices will increasingly impose. As a result, measures that are already in place, such as providing schools and universities free of charge, now have legal protections and the big challenge is therefore to ensure that they reach those in need, the original concern of the executive, which during the parliamentary consideration of the bill, made a number of Introduced changes that would be crucial for final unanimous adoption.

In any case, the government had already allocated a budget of more than £5 million (almost €6 million) to help educational institutions fund the products and support distribution to low-income households, a task being carried out by organizations such as FareShare was taken over. It had also set aside an additional four million for municipalities to extend the levy to other public spaces, and another half million for sports clubs.

rooted in society

The initiative caught on in the social fabric and numerous hospitality establishments such as pubs and restaurants have been offering products for free for years, a gesture of solidarity as it was not compulsory.

The great unknown now is whether the Scottish initiative will inspire other governments. The UK government has set up a task force to improve accessibility and remove the stigma surrounding periods and has been guaranteeing primary and secondary schools free products for two and a half years. The problem is that the program they have to attend has hardly been advertised and, according to women’s organizations, many centers are unaware of its existence and therefore cannot apply.

She acted more consistently on the so-called tampon tax, since the 5% VAT levied on feminine hygiene articles was abolished last year, a decision that could be made after leaving the Kingdom of European Union. Community law does not allow for a further reduction, although for the past five years the government has already paid VAT revenue on menstrual products into a fund designed to support women’s organizations and women-related NGOs.