Scotland just showed how easy it is to end ‘period poverty’

Scotland has become first country in the world legally secure the right to free period products, in an important step towards ending “period poverty”. The Recurring Products Act, which comes into force today after the Scottish parliament unanimously passed legislation in 2020, forcing local governments and educational institutions to make products available to anyone who needs them. .

Activists told TIME that by enabling women, girls and menstruating women to manage their periods in a healthy and effective way, the law both protects basic human rights and erases it. remove social stigma.

Global, around 500 million people menstruating people live in times of poverty – inability to access menstrual products because of financial constraints. It has various effects, especially on health, as menstruating people are often forced to use temporary supplies that are not enough to control their periods.

In many poor countries, it is estimated that half of the women and girls sometimes forced to use items such as rags, grass and paper instead of tampons and tampons. The problem is not limited to poor countries—two-third out of 16.9 million low-income women in the US were unable to purchase menstrual products in the past year.

Read more: Massive tampon shortage in 2022: The supply chain problem no one talks about

That’s why Scotland’s period product law is so important, activists and lawmakers say. Monica Lennon, a member of parliament in Scotland who campaigned for the law, said: “It’s about showing, through real politics, that we can make a difference, and women, Girls and menstruating women can feel valued.”

While conducting initial research on the issue in 2016, Lennon said she was shocked to discover that Scottish women were using toilet paper or rags – and missing school or work because they weren’t. afford to buy period products. In some cases, Lennon adds, victims of domestic abuse have been prevented from accessing products by control partners. She sought to solve the problem in a “decent” way – making products available like toilet paper in public bathrooms.

“Menstruation is normal,” she says, “and no one should feel ashamed that it is dirty or needs to be hidden.” Lennon’s goal is to remove any barriers to society in which menstruating may occur—“that is, to ensure that everyone can participate in education and work, sports, and recreational activities.” other mind. You shouldn’t give up on that because you’re on your period,” she added. In 2019, one survey out of 1,000 schoolgirls in the UK shows that more students miss school because of their period than because of the flu or a holiday.

Prior to today’s news, there had been years of progress in making period products more accessible in the UK and around the world. In January 2021, the United Kingdom — including England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland—leave The so-called 5% VAT “tampon tax” applies to period products, which are considered luxury, non-essential items under EU law. The UK was able to drop taxes after leaving the EU – and the bloc is now considering a similar proposal to scrap the law across all member states. In August, Colorado became the newest US state eliminate tax. However, there is still much work to be done for the women in 30 US states still have to follow it.

Meanwhile, rising inflation due to the war in Ukraine and supply chain issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic are making demand for free-time products all the more urgent. According to Tina Leslie, founder of Freedom 4 Girls, a UK-based anti-poverty charity during the period, the organization has seen demand for thousands of free products which has already increased. 23% that it distributes to food banks each year. Bloody Good Period, another UK charity, saw a 150% increase in demand for free products from May to June compared to the same time last year.

In such difficult economic times, Lennon argues that government action becomes all the more necessary. And following in Scotland’s footsteps doesn’t have to be expensive — many of Scotland’s local areas Free product pilot before the law was enacted and was seen as both a common and low-cost measure, she said.

Read more: Employers are starting to adopt ‘menstrual leave’ policies. Could it backfire?

A campaign called Make The Switch by Freedom4Girls offers an example of cost reduction by using free time reuse products, such as washable cups and pads, for those who can’t afford to buy them. While these products cost more than before, they are more affordable and better for the planet in the long run. Stretchable menstrual cup up to 10 yearseliminating the need for countless disposable products.

Regardless, Lennon hopes that Scotland’s Period Products Act serves as a “beacon of hope” for others around the world. “I always thought Scotland would focus and be the first country in the world to do this but we certainly won’t be the last.” In March, the Northern Ireland Assembly through the a bill for similar legislation and in 2021, New Zealand roll out Free period products in all schools.

Ultimately, it’s about normalizing the experience that about half of the world’s population will go through at some point in their lives and opening up a conversation. “It’s not just about the poverty of the period, it’s about the dignity of the time,” says Leslie of Freedom4Girls.

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