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Scotland could become the first nation to ensure free universal access to pads and tampons

Andrew Cuomo

Scotland has moved to become the first nation to make tampons and pads free.

The Scottish parliament advanced legislation on Tuesday that would ensure free universal access to tampons, pads and other menstrual products, in a huge stride for the global movement against period poverty.

The Period Products (Free Provision) Scotland Bill passed through the first stage with 112 votes in favor and one abstention.

No one opposed the bill.

“Women and girls are too often left behind in the political process,” Monica Lennon, who introduced the bill last year, said during the debate. “This is a chance to put them first and do something that is truly groundbreaking on gender equality.”

Lennon also acknowledged transgender and non-binary people, adding that the bill was designed to be inclusive of everyone who menstruates.

The bill now moves to the second stage, where members of the Scottish parliament can propose amendments before it is given final consideration in stage three.

The bill aims to tackle period poverty, stigma around menstruation and the impact that periods have on education.

“Menstruation is normal,” Lennon said. “Free universal access to tampons, pads and reusable options should be normal too.”

One in 10 girls in the United Kingdom have been unable to afford period products, according to a 2017 survey from Plan International UK. The survey also found that nearly half of all girls aged 14 to 21 are embarrassed by their periods, while about half had missed an entire day of school because of them.

“For some reason, period products are regarded by some as a luxury, a luxury for which women should be charged,” Alison Johnstone, a member of parliament, said during debate. “Why is it in 2020 that toilet paper is seen as a necessity but period products aren’t?”

The Scottish government has made other efforts to tackle period poverty in the last few years.

In 2018, the government announced that students in schools, colleges and universities across the countries would be able to access sanitary products for free, through a £5.2 million investment. In 2019, it allocated another £4 million to make period products available for free in libraries and recreational centers.

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