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Menstrual products, including tampons and sanitary napkins, are now free in Scotland for anyone who needs them.
From this week, menstrual products will be available in places like pharmacies and community centres, thanks to legislation approved by the Scottish Parliament in 2020.
“Access to free menstrual hygiene products is fundamental to equality and dignity, and removes financial barriers to access,” Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison said in a statementcalling the move “more important than ever” at a time of rising cost of living.
“Proud of what we have achieved in Scotland. We are the first but will not be the last.” said Scottish MP Monica Lennonwho began launching the proposal in 2016.
Awareness has grown in recent years of how access to vintage products can affect the education and economic stability of those in need.
Scotland is the first country to offer free menstrual products nationwide. Others, including New Zealand and Kenya, distribute products for free in public schools.
In the United States, a pack of tampons or sanitary napkins costs around $7-10 for a supply that can last a month or two. (Other products are designed to be reused, such as menstrual underwear or menstrual cups, and have a higher initial cost.) Supply chain disruptions affected availability and drove up costs.
According a recent study from George Mason University. And those who regularly struggled to afford them were more likely to suffer from depression, the researchers found.
Women who struggle to afford basic necessities may choose not to pay the price of a box of tampons and instead resort to toilet paper or socks. A survey of low-income women in Saint-Louis published in 2019 found that nearly half said they had to choose between food and menstrual products at some point in the year. Support programs like SNAP and WIC generally do not cover the cost of period products.
Research has shown that a lack of access to menstrual products can cause women and girls to miss school or work.
“Imagine trying to take a math test being so scared you’re going to have an accident,” said Dr Shelby Davies at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, speaking in an interview with NPR last year. “Like, how do you focus on that?”
Toilet paper and soap are provided free in public restrooms, say advocates, so why not period products?
In the United States, some states have passed legislation requiring public K-12 schools to provide free period products, including New York, Virginia, and Oregon. A dozen states have exempted vintage products from sales tax.
At the federal level, New York Representative Grace Meng, a Democrat, introduced legislation last year that would require Medicaid to cover period products, as well as provide grants and other assistance to improve access in K-12 schools, colleges, and universities, public federal buildings, and detention facilities. The bill remains in committee.