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Scotland Becomes 1st Country To Make Period Products Free

Activists rally outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh in February in support of legislation for free period products. Scotland will make these products free to all who need them after lawmakers unanimously passed a bill that will require tampons and pads to be available in public places.
Activists rally outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh in February in support of legislation for free period products. Scotland will make these products free to all who need them after lawmakers unanimously passed a bill that will require tampons and pads to be available in public places.

Scotland has passed a bill that has made period products such as tampons and pads free to all who need them.

The Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill, which passed unanimously, requires local authorities to ensure that period products are generally obtainable free of charge. Schools and colleges must ensure period products are freely available to students, and designated public places must also make the products available.

The Scottish government has estimated the measure will cost 24 million pounds a year – about $32 million.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's first minister, cheered the bill's passage.

"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. An important policy for women and girls," she wrote on Twitter.

Monica Lennon, who introduced and championed the legislation, thanked those who have campaigned for period dignity and to her colleagues for backing the bill. "A proud day for Scotland and a signal to the world that free universal access to period products can be achieved," she tweeted.

The debate over the bill spurred what was at times a remarkable public discussion of issues rarely spoken about in government chambers. Members of the Scottish Parliament discussed endometriosis and heavy bleeding, why toilet paper and bins for menstrual products are required in restrooms but not menstrual products themselves, and the wide base of support the legislation had drawn from men as well as women.

Two years ago, Scotland began providing free period products in schools, colleges and universities – another first. As NPR reported, that program followed a survey of 2,000 students in Scotland that found 1 in 4 respondents struggled to access sanitary products.

And Scotland has taken pride in blazing this trail.

"That's right, Scotland has become the first country in the world to make period products free for all," the country's official account tweeted. "Because in Scotland, we believe it's fundamental to dignity, equality and human rights."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.