On November 25th, the Scottish Parliament announced its unanimous decision to make menstrual hygiene products, like pads and tampons, completely free to those who need them. The Period Product (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill legally requires that local authorities, educators and public service bodies ensure that period products are obtainable and free of charge. The bill, which was months in the making, will not only help eliminate stigma surrounding periods, but it will diminish period poverty in the country as well.
What is Period Poverty?
As the first country to make such a groundbreaking change, Scotland’s decision has brought to light the reality that is gender inequality and period poverty around the world. According to the American Medical Women’s Association, period poverty “refers to the inadequate access to menstrual hygiene tools and educations, including but not limited to sanitary products, washing facilities and waste management.” Scotland’s new bill will face this issue head on by providing access for people who otherwise can’t afford these hygienic products.
Another contribution to period poverty is the “Pink Tax.” Healthline defines the Pink Tax as “an upcharge on products traditionally intended for women, which have only cosmetic differences from comparable products traditionally intended for men.” In fact, in 2010, Consumer Reports found that “pink” products (usually in the personal care sector) can sometimes cost up to 50% more than products aimed towards men.
While there isn’t a direct counterpart in men’s hygiene, many compare the taxes set on period products to untaxed men’s products, like Viagra and Rogaine. This begs the question: why are pads and tampons not treated equally?
Menstrual products are often viewed and mislabeled as “beauty” products, implying that they are frivolous items that women purchase because they want to. But in reality, pads and tampons are necessities that should be treated as such. Although some American states, along with several countries (including the UK), have removed sale taxes on such items, there is still much more work to do.
Unsurprisingly, Scotland’s news has caused an outpour of excitement on social media, proving that this is a move in the right direction. One Twitter user recognized the impact something like this could have on a person struggling financially:
Another said what we’re all thinking.
Even fashion brand ASOS applauded the country’s bill.
Needless to say, Scotland is making waves by providing necessities for its residents. And we can only hope to see more bills like this come to fruition moving forward.