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Scotland may be first country to make sanitary products free

The government is being urged to fight period poverty

Though half of the population menstruate, the taboo, silence and stigma surrounding periods is everywhere. ‘Period poverty’ is also a major problem across the world – in some instances, according to a series of reports, young people are using socks and toilet roll during their period, whereas others take time off school as they can’t afford sanitary products. The tampon tax in the UK affects marginalised, lower-income women the most, taxing regular bodily functions and classing pads and tampons ‘a luxury’.

Scotland however is setting itself up to be the first country to seriously combat period poverty, with a new bid to introduce free sanitary product. As Sky News reports, Labour MSP Monica Lennon has put forward a plan for a universal system of free provision of sanitary items across the country.

Back in July, the Scottish government rolled out a project in Aberdeen to offer free products to poorer people. The trial, which received £42,000 in funding, gave at least 1,000 people access to products for menstruating. 

“Scotland has the opportunity to be a world leader in ending period poverty,” Lennon said in a statement.

“Access to sanitary products should be a basic right but sadly in Scotland we know not everyone can afford or obtain what they need. That's why I intend to introduce a legal duty on the Scottish Government to develop a universal system in Scotland which will provide free sanitary products for anyone who needs them. 

“My proposal also includes a statutory duty on schools, colleges and universities to provide free sanitary products in their toilets. Having your period shouldn't result in anyone missing class. This is a big step towards creating a fairer and more equal society and I hope to hear from people right across Scotland during the consultation.”

The legislation proposed would implement a system that’s like the NHS C-Card scheme, which gives free condoms to anyone who wants them.

Some public schools in New York took part in a project offering free tampons and pads, which was so successful it’s been rolled out elsewhere.

Though the tampon tax remains in the UK, Tesco and Waitrose became some of the first supermarkets to cut prices and cover the tax on tampons and pads.

To conclude: sanitary pads and tampons are absolutely essential if you are a menstruating person, and they should be totally accessible for anyone on any income. PERIOD. Restricting access means women have to forgo food to buy tampons, use items of clothing in their underwear to stem the blood flow, wear sanitary products for longer and risk toxic shock syndrome. 

If this is a cause you’d like to support, there are several organisations that work to combat period poverty, such as Bloody Good Period, a resource for asylum seekers and refugees, and The Homeless Period, a UK-wide project offering sanitary items to homeless women. No More Taboo is a worldwide organisation encouraging the use of sustainable sanitary products and running education programmes. Have your say on period poverty in Scotland here