Scotland has become the first country in the world to introduce universal access to free period products. According to the bill that was passed in Holyrood on Tuesday night, November 24, it is legally required to ensure everyone who needs such products has access to them. It is the outcome of the 4-year-campaign led by the labour MSP Monica Lennon to fight period poverty and stigma surrounding menstruation. After passing the bill, Lennon said that this was “a proud day for Scotland”.
The new legislation has a significant impact on the life of every person that menstruates. It sparked various comments around the globe, provoking more open conversations regarding menstruations. As Scotland is a leader in this field, it is essential to note that there have been various actions taken in the country to help people who menstruate for quite some time.
Since 2017, all schools and universities have been required to provide free period products on their facilities. As one small step led to another, many businesses, like pubs and restaurants, followed this pattern and put free tampons and pads in their bathrooms for customers to use.
Universal access to menstruation products provides essential access to healthcare. It is also a vital step for the fight against period poverty – a situation when a person cannot afford suitable menstruation products. This issue is regarded by many as a serious predicament, and the current pandemic only escalated the problem. Thereby, this established that 1 in 5 people who menstruate were found to experience period poverty at some point in their life. Having free and universal access significantly decreases the issue of period poverty. Many people find it necessary, as period poverty has long-lasting detrimental consequences on people’s hygiene, well-being, and health – both physical and mental.
Overpricing of some menstruation products contributes another dimension to the problem. Despite Scotland’s openness, England still has a 5% extra tax put on menstruation items. The situation is similar in the US, where period products are taxed on the bases of being “luxury” or “non-essential” goods. Some recognize this description as an exaggeration for referring to healthcare or sanitary products. However, many believe that Scotland has set a good example, as England is currently considering cancelling their tax on period products and a majority of US states plans to take action and a similar approach.
Despite living in the 21st century, menstruation is still considered a taboo topic with a certain amount of stigma around it. Just in the UK, 71% of people who menstruate between 14 and 21 said they were embarrassed while buying period products. Many people who menstruate still feel that they should not talk about their period, excuse themselves on some activities due to it or they even feel ashamed of being seen with a tampon or a pad.
Could this be changed due to Scotland’s recent actions? The new law sparked conversations regarding its ruling, and thus menstruation itself. Some believe that the more people talk openly about periods, the more comfortably this topic is settled in society.
More legislation of this kind provides the subject with enough publicity to normalize it amongst the standard population. It is believed that an emphasis on education might be the best target if the rest of the world wants to follow Scotland’s footsteps.
The new Scottish legislation is undeniably a significant step forward on the path of abolishing the stigma around menstruation and making it less of a taboo topic. Scotland’s example might influence other countries’ decisions shortly. It may also encourage further conversations and education, leading to the normalization of menstruation.
If this were to happen, menstruation would be seen as a natural process of a human’s body, and not something that could just be brushed under the carpet or only spoken about behind closed doors.