Groundbreaking Legislation Providing Free Period Products Could Be A Sign of Better Access to Come
Guest Blogger: Chelsea Fulton
In November 2020, Scotland became the first country to pass a bill making period products such as tampons and pads free to all who need them. The Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill passed unanimously in the Scottish Parliament, and was cheered by Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's first minister. In 2018, Scotland became the first country to make pads and tampons available in schools, colleges, and universities. The measure was so effective that when the Period Products Bill was introduced two years later, the legislation drew a wide base of support from all genders. As reported by NPR, the bill “requires local authorities to ensure that period products are generally obtainable free of charge,” and requires schools and colleges to “ensure period products are freely available to students, and designated public places must also make the products available.”
It’s important, and not an overstatement, to note the groundbreaking nature of this legislation. The impact that free access to period products can provide is both profound and wide-reaching - providing a sense of dignity, ensuring no one has to choose among basic necessities based on income, breaking down cultural barriers that make women and girls feel ashamed, and more. While those of us at Period Kits understand eliminating period poverty is fundamental to dignity, equality, and human rights, the fact that this type of country-wide legislation is first being passed in 2020 is a sign that there is still much work to be done.
However, Scotland’s signal to the world that free universal access to period products can be achieved is a bright ray of hope. Since the passing of that legislation, England and Wales have adopted similar measures, and New Zealand’s Prime Minister announced in 2021 that free menstrual products would be made available in all schools for the next three years.
While the U.S. is slower to follow suit, states are catching on. In February 2021, USA Today reported, “California and Illinois became the first states to give public school students access to free menstrual products in early 2018, followed by New York later that year and New Hampshire in 2019. Georgia decided by budget, not legislation, that it will also provide pads and tampons at no cost in low-income schools starting the 2020 fiscal year.” Virginia signed a similar law requiring schools to provide free tampons and menstrual pads in bathrooms last Spring. Other states that have since filed and/or started to pass these types of bills in the state House and Senate include Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Missouri, Florida, Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. Not all of the bills have passed, but the mere introduction of this legislation shows advocates for ending period poverty are gaining support, and the fight is far from over.
There is a growing awareness of the inequality in access to period products, and a growing desire to address the issue with state and federal aid. As Scotland and the rest of the UK pave the way for a global response, we will continue to provide access to these critical resources for our local communities and work to bring a greater awareness to this issue among our local, state, and Federal representatives.