In a historic move, Scotland has become the first country in the world to officially pass a bill making access to period products, including tampons and sanitary pads, free at public facilities. This is being seen as a landmark victory for the global movement against period poverty.
On Tuesday, the Scottish Parliament unanimously voted in favour of the Period Products bill, which was first introduced earlier this year. Through this bill, menstrual products will be made accessible for free in all public buildings, including schools and universities across the country. The bill states that it will be the responsibility of the local authorities and education providers to ensure that the products are available free of charge.
The woman behind this bill is Monica Lennon, a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP), who introduced this bill last year. "The campaign has been backed by a wide coalition, including trades unions, women's organisations and charities," she had said ahead of the vote. "Scotland will not be the last country to make period poverty history." After the vote, Lennon said the decision was "a signal to the world that free universal access to period products can be achieved."
Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland, took to Twitter after the vote to share the news. She wrote, “proud to vote for this groundbreaking legislation” which she called an “important policy for women and girls.”
Proud to vote for this groundbreaking legislation, making Scotland the first country in the world to provide free period products for all who need them. An important policy for women and girls. Well done to @MonicaLennon7 @ClydesdAileen and all who worked to make it happen https://t.co/4lckZ4ZYIY— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) November 24, 2020
Period poverty can be explained as a scenario in which women from low-income backgrounds cannot afford to and do not have access to menstrual hygiene products. This is a big problem in India, and according to studies, less than 20% of girls and women in India use sanitary pads. This issue has been highlighted in 2018 Akshay Kumar-starrer Padman. However, it failed to bring about any substantial change on a policy-level in the country. In fact, to this date, sanitary pads continue to be taxed a GST of 12% in India.
As MSP Monica Lennon said, Scotland will not be the last country to make period poverty a history. Hopefully, other countries will get inspired to bring about this sea of change to the issue of women's reproductive health. To quote Lennon's fellow MSP, “Why is it in 2020 that toilet paper is seen as a necessity but period products aren’t? Being financially penalised for a natural bodily function is not equitable or just.”
Congratulations Scotland, for passing this historic bill. Indian lawmakers, we hope you're taking notes!