In an incredibly progressive move, Scotland announced plans today to provide free tampons and sanitary pads in all schools and universities across the country, making the country the first ever to do so.
The laudable plan was spurred on by a recent report that found nearly one in every four students struggle to access period products in some shape or form. "In a country as rich as Scotland it's unacceptable that anyone should struggle to buy basic sanitary products," says Scotland communities secretary, Aileen Campbell. The £5.2m investment plan aims to fight period poverty by partnering with local organizations like the non-profit Hey Girls, which has been the main supplier of feminine hygiene products to Glasgow Caledonian University and several city councils across Scotland since January of this year.
Period poverty is a serious public health crisis that often goes undiscussed due to public stigma. UNICEF and the World Health Organization reported in 2015, that nearly 500 million women and girls lack the means to manage their monthly period due to a combination of factors including inadequate education and prohibitive taxes on hygiene products. It is unclear if this number is meant to include transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals who are also disproportionately affected by the issue as well.
Only nine states in the US, Minnesota, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, Florida, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Maryland, currently have laws that exempt purchases of pads and tampons from state sales tax. Canada did away with its nationwide sales tax on period products in 2015 but Scotland will be the first sovereign of its kind to fully cover the cost.
"Access to period products should be a right, regardless of your income," says Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon, "no one should face the indignity of being unable to access these essential products to manage their period."