Well done, Scotland, global menstruation movers and shakers are celebrating a monumental moment
The discourse around menstruation products in terms of cost and availability has been on the rise in recent years. More people who menstruate are coming forward and expressing how things have to change, one way, for example, being how too many people are without the products they need during their cycle. Exacerbating the issue of general access and cost is how some menstrual products, like tampons, in most nations are taxed and classified as ‘luxury items’. Germany changed this in 2020, but Scotland has taken the discourse and progress to the next level by providing free and universal access to period products in public places.
Free period products in Scotland
Monica Lennon has been the Scottish Labour Party’s Spokesperson for Health and Sport since 2018 and is the champion of ‘The Period Products’ bill. This bill, which passed unanimously this week, took four years to bring to fruition and was spearheaded by a grassroots movement for more equitable access that was sweeping the nation. Its passing has been praised by a number of equality and women’s rights groups, and across the Scottish parties, as a large step in the right direction (Picheta & Kottasova, 2020). In action, the Period Products bill not only provides menstrual product access to the many Scottish menstruators in need, it also contributes to the fundamental shifts in public discourse around menstruation, including period poverty.
You can see Monica Lennon featured second from the right.
What is period poverty?
Period poverty is the term used to discuss the experience of those who struggle to or cannot pay for the products needed to have a hygienic and safe menstrual cycle. This issue, already strong across the globe, has surged due to the current pandemic. Some UK charities, for example, state that they are providing as much as 6X their typical amount of menstrual products as they were before the pandemic (Taylor, 2020). Menstrual products can cost thousands of euros over a lifetime and the issues surrounding access will not go away without the active effort of both the public and private sectors.
Scotland is taking a big step in the right direction, not just for its own citizens, but also for contributing to the global shift in perspective around how the word ‘menstruation’ is perceived. Far from being a dirty word, conversations around menstruation are important in and of themselves for dispelling myths, taboo, and for sharing and illuminating the experiences of others. Scotland’s initiative is opening the floor to conversations around endometriosis, menopause and education into spaces, like legal chambers, where large-scale progress can actually be initiated (Brooks, 2020).
This will make a massive difference to the lives of women and girls
and everyone who menstruates the chance of period dignity
- Monica Lennon
The bill extends into public schools, colleges, and universities where this legislation mandates the free provision of menstruation products. Most impressively, having this as a legal mandate, requires that football clubs, restaurants, pubs, and public concert halls provide these products.
Seeing such an important topic so high up on global political agendas can only increase from here on out. ‘"Scotland will not be the last country to make period poverty history," Lennon said of the decision and that it was "a signal to the world that free universal access to period products can be achieved". And we are incredibly excited.
Brooks, L. (2020). Scotland becomes first nation to provide free period products for all. The Guardian. Retrieved November 25 from : https://bit.ly/3pYSWEW
Picheta, R. & Kottasová, I. (2020). Scotland becomes first country to make tampons and pads available for free. CNN. Retrieved November 24 from : https://edition.cnn.com/2020/11/24/uk/scotland-period-products-vote-scli-gbr-intl/index.html
Taylor, D. (2020). Period poverty has surged in UK during Covid pandemic. The GUardian. Retrieved November 25 from : https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/nov/16/period-poverty-covid-pandemic-uk-crisis-charity-menstrual-products
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