Scotland Has Become The First Country To Make Sanitary Products Free
Scotland has just made history by passing a bill that will make sanitary products free for all girls, women and trans people.
The bill which was originally submitted in 2017 by Monica Lennon was passed on 25th November 2020, with 112 votes in its favour, one abstention and zero against.
Providers of sanitary products will be compensated as part of the scheme which is set to cost the Scottish Government an estimated £24 million which is $44 million to put it into perspective. Tampons and pads will also be made readily available in all schools, colleges and university bathrooms.
Period poverty is a huge problem in the UK with studies showing that one in seven young women (between the age of fourteen and twenty-one) struggle to afford sanitary products and one in ten can not afford them at all.
Period Poverty in Australia
There are five hundred million girls, women and trans people experiencing period poverty around the world.
Experiencing period poverty means that a person can not financially afford sanitary products and as a result has no choice but to use alternatives like socks, rolled up toilet paper, even rags and old newspapers. Using these substitute materials often leads to girls missing school, and women or trans people having to stay home from work which then adds further stress to their financial situation. The lack of hygiene can lead to infection and the experience as a whole often causes feelings of shame and embarrassment, which can have a severe impact on a person’s mental health.
Period poverty is a significant problem here in Australia too with three million people living below the poverty line on one million of those experiencing period poverty.
One of the reasons period poverty is such an issue is because of the stigma that is still attached to periods, even in today’s society people still use the terms ‘Aunt Flo’ and ‘that time of the month’ just to avoid saying period or menstruation.
Elizabeth Payne from Plan International Australia told The Guardian that one way we can work towards ending the stigma around periods is by engaging in “open, nonjudgmental discussions with friends” and for parents to encourage their children to feel comfortable when talking about periods as well. Creating space for open and honest dialogue about periods in the home not only normalises menstruation but fosters an environment for education.
Once upon a time in the not so distant past, the Australian Government considered sanitary products a ‘luxury’ item, unlike condoms and lubricant which were classed as essentials. In 2018, after eighteen long years of campaigning, sanitary products were finally recognised as essential items when the 10% GST tax was removed.
Another small step in the right direction came earlier this year when the Victorian Government made 27 million sanitary products freely available in all state schools, saving families hundreds of dollars a year and sparing girls and trans teens from the anxiety of having to go to school without sanitary products.
Share The Dignity
Share The Dignity is a charity that provides sanitary items to people experiencing period poverty. Through collection drives and campaigns Share The Dignity have been able to donate over 2.5 million pads and tampons, and 4,487 menstrual cups to girls, women and trans people experiencing homelessness, fleeing domestic violence, or experiencing financial hardship. They have also placed 186 vending machines around the country, which dispense free pads and tampons to those in need.
The aim is that no one should have to miss school or work because of their period or have to use rags or toilet paper because they can’t afford sanitary products.
Share The Dignity run various collection drives throughout the year if you are interested in donating or getting involved you can find out more here.