Scotland on Tuesday became the first country to allow free and universal access to menstrual products, including sanitary napkins and tampons, in what is being seen as a historical achievement for the global campaign against period poverty, reported CNN. The Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Act was passed unopposed through its final stage.

Period poverty is a term that defines the struggle to pay for basic sanitary products every month. Charities claimed there has been a rise in such cases due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The bill, introduced by politician Monica Lennon, proposed three different ways to make the products available to everyone for free. “...the Scottish Government must set up a Scotland-wide scheme to allow anyone who needs period products to get them free of charge,” according to Scottish Parliament website. Educational institutions were asked to make a range of period products available for free, and the government will also be empowered to make other public organisations provide the products with no cost.

“This will make a massive difference to the lives of women and girls and everyone who menstruates,” Lennon told The Guardian. “There has already been great progress at a community level and through local authorities in giving everyone the chance of period dignity.” The Scottish politician said there was a significant change in the manner periods are discussed in the public.

The scheme is likely to cost around £8.7 million (around Rs 86 crore) every year till 2022. Lennon cited official inequality statistics that showed nearly 20% women in Scotland were living in relative poverty.

“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,” tweeted Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. “An important policy for women and girls.”

One in every 10 girls in the United Kingdom have not been able to buy period products, a 2017 survey from Plan International UK revealed. It also found that almost half of all the girls, aged between 14 and 21, were embarrassed of their periods, and nearly a half missed a day of school because of it.

In 2019, England had launched an initiative to provide sanitary products free of cost in schools, according to CNN.

The pandemic also triggered a crisis in India over the availability of sanitary pads. Schools, which usually provided a pack of pads to the girls each month, were no longer able to do so after the pandemic-induced shutdown. With schools being closed, along with other supply chain issues, as few as 15% of girls had access to sanitary pads during the lockdown. However, the duration of this unavailability is unclear.

Also read:

Only 15% girls in India had access to sanitary pads during lockdown