Scotland becomes first country to make tampons and pads free

All Scotland public facilities and schools must now ensure its period products are free and accessible.

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Scotland has become the first country in the world to make access to menstrual products, including tampons and sanitary pads, free in all public facilities. 

All schools and universities will be responsible for ensuring its period products are free and accessible, as well as in other public campus buildings. 

Labour MSP Monica Lennon (second from left) joins campaigners and activists for a February rally in support of the Scottish Government’s Support For Period Products Bill in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Scots have addressed “period poverty” by making sanitary products available to all free of charge. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

“The campaign has been backed by a wide coalition, including trades unions, women’s organizations and charities,” Monica Lennon, the lawmaker who introduced the Period Products Bill last year, said ahead of the vote. “Scotland will not be the last country to make period poverty history.”

Lennon said the decision was “a signal to the world that free universal access to period products can be achieved.”

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Lawmakers note that the bill could cost upwards of £8 million annually, depending on the number of women who take advantage of the products. 

A survey from Plan International UK found that nearly 10 percent of women in the United Kingdom can not afford monthly menstrual products. 

Additionally, many school-age girls often skip school due to their lack of access to sanitary products. 

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“Proud to vote for this groundbreaking legislation, making Scotland the first country in the world to provide free period products for all who need them,” tweeted Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. “An important policy for women and girls. Well done to @MonicaLennon7 @ClydesdAileen and all who worked to make it happen.” 

Both England and New Zealand have also enacted laws to make sanitary products free in schools. 

Research by the University of Pennsylvania found that “period poverty” is a global challenge. 

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In the United States, students, low-income women and girls, the homeless as well as incarcerated women struggle most with period poverty. Further, researchers have noted period products should be exempt from sales tax as an essential product. 

“Although more women than men live in poverty in the United States, period products cannot be purchased with food stamps, Medicaid or health insurance spending accounts,” the Penn report says, noting that at least 42 million impoverished women “experience the indignity of being unable to care for themselves during their periods.” 

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