Scotland could become the first country in the world to provide women and girls with free tampons and sanitary towels under a new proposal to combat "period poverty”. Monica Lennon, Scottish Labour’s inequalities spokeswoman, announced the plan to bring forward a members’ bill at Holyrood, the Scottish Parliament, on International Women’s Day.
Under the proposal, schools would be legally required to provide free sanitary products for staff and students like South Lanarkshire College, which recently announced it would be installing machines dispensing free sanitary products in its toilets, The Times reported.
Lennon also wants to ensure the products are available beyond schools by ensuring the Scottish government provides them to “anyone who needs them”.
Charities have been calling on the Scottish Parliament to offer free sanitary products to women receiving working age benefits. Feminist groups have long held that these products are much needed by women living in poverty, and that a lack of feminine hygiene products can lead to girls missing days off school. Lennon said radical action is needed to combat gender inequality and that current progress was moving at a “glacial pace”.
“I’m pleased to be able to announce today that it is my intention to bring forward a member’s bill in the coming months that will directly address the issue of the accessibility of sanitary products for women and girls across the country. SNP ministers should be tackling this inequality rather than simply pointing women to food banks,” she said.
The proposal has been well received by several backbench politicians from the Scottish National Party (SNP), but it’s not yet clear whether the majority of MSPs would support the plans. Gillian Martin, an MSP for Aberdeenshire, suggested a card system that would entitle holders to the free sanitary products would be the “ideal” scheme.
If the plans are implemented, Scotland would be following in the footsteps of New York, which adopted a similar policy towards "menstrual equity" last year. The city now provides free tampons and pads to women in public schools, prisons and homeless shelters.