Scotland Just Made Period Products Free — Can the Rest of Us Have That Too, Please?

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Cellulose white tampon pattern with twine on yellow background. Concept of menstruation, ovulation, reproduction, pain and personal hygiene.

Image Source: Getty / DBenitostock

Scotland became the first country to make all period products — including pads and tampons — free for anyone who needs them.

The Period Products Act was passed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament in 2020 and is now going into effect this week, according to a statement from the Scottish government. The law ensures that people who menstruate will be able to access period care for free and with reasonable ease. Colleges, universities, government bodies, pharmacies, and community centers will have an assortment of free period products available in bathrooms for anyone who needs them.

Since 2017, the Scottish government has invested more than £27 million to fund period-care access, but the Period Products Act makes free, readily available period products a legal requirement.

“Providing access to free period products is fundamental to equality and dignity, and removes the financial barriers to accessing them,” Scottish Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison said in a statement. “This is more important than ever at a time when people are making difficult choices due to the cost of living crisis and we never want anyone to be in a position where they cannot access period products.”

The Scottish government also coordinated with social enterprise Hey Girls to launch the PickupMyPeriod mobile app, which will tell users where they can find free menstrual products close to them. “The Period Product Act shows Scotland is leading the way in recognizing that period products are not a luxury and should be freely available to all,” founder of Hey Girls Celia Hodson said in the government statement.

The law was first introduced by Parliament member Monica Lennon, who has championed ending period poverty through legislation. The Journal of Global Health Reports defines period poverty as “a lack of access to menstrual products, hygiene facilities, waste management, and education.”

In the United States, 16.9 million people who menstruate live in poverty — and two-thirds of those people were unable to afford menstrual products in the last year, according to the Journal of Global Health Reports. For many people, they must face the difficult decision of buying food or menstrual products (a box of tampons ranges from $5 to $8, and of course, the essential, medically necessary products are subject to a luxury tax). To add insult to injury, period products aren’t covered by SNAP benefits — or food stamps — either.

There’s a growing movement to address period poverty in the United States, and ideally, many other countries will follow Scotland’s example. Lennon shared on Twitter that Scotland was “the first but won’t be the last.” Fingers crossed.

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