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Social Justice

Scotland makes history with landmark bill to overturn period poverty

Educational institutions and local authorities must provide free tampons and sanitary pads in public toilets after a long campaign by groups calling for an end to period poverty.

Scotland has become the first country in the world to give people a legal right to free tampons and sanitary pads following a historic vote in Holyrood that serves as a benchmark in alleviating period poverty.

The Period Products Bill was passed unanimously by MSPs meaning educational institutions and local authorities must provide free tampons and sanitary pads in public toilets.

“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,” said Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who described the bill as “an important policy for women and girls.”

Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon has campaigned for the legislation since 2017, despite initial resistance from ministers.

Lennon said: “This is a landmark day for Scotland and for period dignity for all. 

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“Grateful to MSP colleagues in all parties for their support for the Period Products Bill and all those campaigners who made the case for progressive change.”

Period poverty has surged since the pandemic according to Bloody Good Period, a UK charity which supplies food banks, community support groups, vulnerable people and NHS frontline workers with sanitary items. The charity said it has supplied nearly six times as many products compared with before the pandemic. 

Menstrual hygiene campaigner, Natasha Mudhar, said the vote was a historic moment, “not just in Scotland but around the world. This could empower millions and more importantly bring about the domino effect on other governments around the world.”

But it is now “time to turn our attention towards destroying the stigmas that are still linked to menstruation,” she added.”Whilst this has the power to be a monumental announcement in the UK, we are still a way off from completely freeing women and girls from the negative taboo of menstruation.”

Campaigners have long argued women should be able to access free products in a dignified way, no matter where they are or their situation. Period poverty is a widespread issue with 49 per cent of girls having missed a day of school due to periods, according to Plan International UK.

Speaking from the debating chamber on Tuesday evening, Monica Lennon said, “We have shown parliament can be a force for progressive change. We want to consign period poverty to history.”

“It matters now more than ever before because periods don’t stop in a pandemic and I am beyond proud that Scotland is leading the way. Instead of hiding tampons up their sleeve, girls and women and now more likely to be talking about periods on social media.”

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