The Period Products Bill recently passed Stage 1 as February came to a close, setting Scotland on track to ending period poverty. The Bill is for an ‘Act of Scottish Parliament to secure the provision throughout Scotland of free period products’, introduced by Monica Lennon MSP. If introduced completely, it will be ground-breaking and will improve quality of life for all women, whether they live in poverty or not.
A survey by the Young Scot of 2050 of people largely at school, college or university, shows that roughly a quarter of the respondents struggled to access period products. A current study carried out by Victoria Heaney, a Women for Independence Officer, found that almost one in five women have had to go without period products because of financial problems. More than one in five said they have had to prioritise other living costs over these required sanitary products.
However, the problem surrounding period products is not solely a problem of poverty but also the taboo surrounding periods, and is a wider feminist issue. The Young Scot’s survey suggests various reasons for people not having access to period products, one of these being that people were not comfortable asking others for them. There is also the issue that people, though able to afford some form of period product, are resorting to cheaper, less suitable products.
As well as cost issues, the bill aims to tackle the stigma around periods. In one study, 71% of 14-21 year olds were embarrassed buying period products. Periods have shown to impact girls in education, as studies show that a large proportion of girls skip school during their period. The correlation between lower grades and skipping school is not an unfamiliar one.
If the bill is to pass all the stages, it would ensure a “period products scheme” which would make it a legal obligation for the Scottish government to ensure anyone needing the products can obtain them for free. The exact practicalities of the scheme is a topic of discussion, as the aim is to provide the products in such a way that allows women to access them ‘reasonably easily’, with ‘reasonable privacy’. The proposal for the bill suggests providing period products in a similar manner to that in which free condoms are provided. Moreover, the bill states that the products should be available by delivery as well as collection.
Scotland was already the first country in the world to provide free period products in schools, colleges and universities, having put aside £5.2 million to fund it. This is something which the bill aims to legally protect.
Elsewhere in the world, progress is not being made fast enough. Some states in the US have passed laws making it compulsory for schools to provide free period products, and products were provided in all secondary schools in the UK. Once the bill is passed in Scotland, we can expect to see the rest of the UK and hopefully other countries following suit.
Image: March Verch via Flickr