In a victory for people who get periods, Scotland is now the world’s first country to make menstrual products free to all.
The Period Products Act, passed in 2020 by the Scottish Parliament, took effect on Aug. 15. The law requires all public institutions to offer tampons and pads free of charge. Local authorities will coordinate distribution, and an app called PickupMyPeriod directs users to the closest site.
“Providing access to free period products is fundamental to equality and dignity, and removes the financial barriers to accessing them,” said Shona Robison, Scotland’s social justice secretary, in a statement quoted by the New York Times. “We never want anyone to be in a position where they cannot access period products.”
The act follows a law already on the books in Scotland, which requires schools and other public buildings to provide female hygiene products. One group that supported the law, Hey Girls, said that period products should be as accessible to the public as free toilet paper in bathrooms, according to the BBC.
Legislator Monica Lennon introduced the bill in 2020, which passed unanimously.
“We are witnessing a massive culture change, where period stigma is no longer being tolerated,” Lennon told the Times. “There’s more emphasis on menstrual well-being and a renewed focus on tackling medical misogyny.”
Other countries, like New Zealand, are making similar moves. In the U.S., New York congresswoman Grace Meng created the Menstrual Equality for All Act in 2021, a bill that requires government entities and certain employers to provide free products.
With rises in the cost of living, prices on period products become especially concerning for low-income folks. A 2019 survey of women in St. Louis found that 64% of respondents had been unable to afford menstrual products in the previous year. This lack has led to teens missing school (one in five have experienced period poverty, according to some sources). It also results in a heightened risk of infection from the use of items not intended for use with menstruation, along with poor mental health outcomes.
Scottish lawmaker Lennon has hope for the future, though.
“This is another big milestone for period dignity campaigners and grassroots movements, which shows the difference that progressive and bold political choices can make,” she told the BBC. “As the cost-of-living crisis takes hold, the Period Products Act is a beacon of hope which shows what can be achieved when politicians come together for the good of the people we serve.”