Scotland is the first country to address “period poverty”

Photo courtesy of Marco Verch, Flickr

Scotland has recently passed legislation to make all period products free, and it’s about time someone led the way. Their bill to create free access to menstrual products hopes to address what they call “period poverty,” or the inability to afford suitable menstrual products.

Like many other countries, Scotland had already offered free condoms in locations like pharmacies, doctor’s offices and colleges and universities, so it only makes sense to have menstrual products available there as well. After all, periods are inevitable and affect more than half the population of the world, so why should proper care only be available for those who can afford it?

While many schools, colleges and universities around the world offer free period products — Ramapo College included — Scotland was the first to do so as a country. This is yet another factor other countries could take note of.

One of the most important qualities of this bill is that it requires these products to be accessible “reasonably easily” and with “reasonable dignity,” according to BBC. Their provision to ensure that anyone receiving these products is respected is exactly what progressive legislation is all about.

Other countries are farther behind this growth for dismantling the stigma that exists around periods, including the U.S. In most states, period products still have tax included on them which making them a luxury, not a necessity. Especially during a year where unemployment is at 6.9% (according to the Bureau of Labor statistics), menstrual products need to be seen as the health products that they are and available to all.

Another impressive aspect of this bill is that it passed unanimously in the Scottish Parliament. Where other countries cannot even agree that these products are a necessity, Scotland has decided access to them is a basic human right. 

It was “clear that everyone in this chamber agrees that no one in our society should have to suffer the indignity of not having the means to meet their basic needs and that being able to access period products is fundamental to equality and dignity,” Scottish cabinet secretary for communications and local government Aileen Campbell said.

I agree with Campbell, that access to menstrual products regardless of wealth status is a call for the respect and dignity of those who menstruate. Whether or not they know it, I see this bill also as a step toward the respect of gender identity regardless of anatomy, as the products will be available to “anyone who needs them,” not just women and girls.

Scotland is proving themselves a path maker through this bill, showing the world that it is not only possible but completely achievable to end period poverty.