Intending to end period poverty for good, Scotland has become the first nation to offer free menstruation products. The Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Act was passed unanimously by government officials to make period products widely available to everyone and anyone who needs them.
Introduced by Monica Lennon MSP, this Bill was years in the making. According to government documents, the “aim for the Bill is to tackle “period poverty,” which is when some people who need period products struggle to afford them.” While Scotland currently provides free period products to those who lack accessibility or affordability, making this a legal requirement would significantly propel Lennon’s movement towards ending period stigma.
What is Period Poverty?
Menstruation has often been a taboo topic; one many refuse to address, let alone discuss wholeheartedly, despite millions of women and young girls who experience this body function on a reoccurring monthly basis.
Period Poverty refers to the “lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, handwashing facilities, and, or, waste management.” Women and young girls are often shamed, ridiculed, or excluded from regular activities during menstruation due to the attached stigma. In some instances, the desperate need to conceal, coupled with a lack of resources, is enough to stop girls from attending school entirely. By choosing to withdraw from education, girls lack the necessary tools to support their future goals, families, and communities.
Other circumstances can also make menstruation a challenging experience. Women who are homeless, experience heavy periods, or are involved in abusive relationships might have restricted access to feminine hygiene products – all of whom could benefit from this Bill’s passing.
What Does Scotland’s Bill Include?
As stated in the Free Provision document, the Bill is broken down into three parts as listed below:
1. The Bill places responsibility on Scottish Ministers to ensure widespread, universal access to period products -this will allow anyone that requires the use of such products to be freely granted.
2. It will legally protect women’s rights to obtain period products at educational institutions, including schools, colleges, and universities – at no cost.
3. Scottish Ministers must make the availability of free period products publicly known, including placing responsibilities on local authorities to ensure items like pads and tampons are readily obtainable.
Period Poverty Across the Globe
Period Poverty is not an isolated issue; it impacts women worldwide of all ages and ethnicities. According to UNICEF, 2.3 billion people live without essential sanitation services, making it incredibly difficult for young girls and women to safely manage their periods without putting their health at risk.
But this is just one part of the problem.
What also further ignites the stigma is the lack of menstrual hygiene education boys receive. By failing to inform them of female health, they lack the empathy and understanding required to dismantle the shame associated with this natural process.
Period Poverty in Film
In 2018, a short documentary film titled “Period. End of Sentence.” was released. The film tracks a group of women in Hapur, India, as they learn to use a machine that creates biodegradable feminine pads, which they can then sell to other women at low cost. What makes this film so powerful is that not only does it break the cycle of period poverty, but it also provides financial sustenance for these women, who are then able to support their families and ultimately lift their communities.
The work to end period poverty doesn’t stop here; it is only beginning.
By making period products universally accessible, Scotland sends a strong message to other countries. A statement that demands gender equity; recognizing period products are just as vital to a woman’s health as toilet paper. Moving forward, we can remove the cultural shame attached to menstruation through education, normalizing the process so that no girl or woman has to feel the need to limit her goals ever again – because of her period.
Period. End of Sentence. is currently streaming on Netflix.