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Scotland makes period products free in world first legislation

Scotland has become the first country in the world to provide free and universal access to period products after a four-year grassroots campaign.

Once again leading the world in the fight to end period poverty, Scotland this week passed landmark legislation that will grant free access to period products for all menstruating persons in the country.

The Period Products Free Provision Scotland Act, which passed through Scottish parliament unanimously on Tuesday evening, will mandate local authorities to make period products available to all those who require them in their constituency.

The scheme builds on the work of councils like North Ayrshire, which has been keeping free sanitary products in public buildings for two years now, and progresses an initiative begun in 2018 when the Scottish government made free period products compulsory in schools, colleges, and universities.

Scotland has become the global frontrunner for access to free and safe periods due largely to a grassroots campaign spearheaded by Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman Monica Lennon. Elected in 2016, Lennon made it one of her first acts as a member of parliament to question the fact that many low income Scottish menstruators had to approach food banks for period products each month.

She introduced similar legislation to the one passed this week in Holyrood last year following years of campaigning, and the success of her operation there proved a key incentive for a federal equivalent.

Speaking to The Guardian, Lennon stated that, ‘This will make a massive difference to the lives of women and girls and everyone who menstruates.’ She added that ‘there has been a massive change in the way that periods are discussed in public life. A few years ago there had never been an open discussion of menstruation in the Holyrood chamber and now it is mainstream.’

Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon Tweeted shortly after the results had been announced that she was ‘proud to vote for this groundbreaking legislation.’

Thred has written extensively on the issue of period poverty, and the recent surge of Gen Z activists bringing attention to a previously much overlooked form of social deprivation. Gender inequality manifests in many nefarious forms, but cultural shifts will only come from examples and incentives in tangible fields like economics and legislation.

Ending the period tax is one thing, but Scotland has provided an example of the gold standard of period poverty eradication, taking the first steps to remove any form of stigma or financial burden from this unavoidable physiological process.