Menstrual products, including tampons and pads, will be made available free of charge in public facilities in Scotland from Monday, when the first law of its kind in the world came into force.
The Period Products bill was passed unanimously by Scottish lawmakers in November 2020, representing a landmark victory for the global movement against period poverty.
The new law means period products will be available to access in public buildings including schools and universities across Scotland. It will be the responsibility of local authorities and education providers to ensure the products are available free of charge.
The law was the brainchild of Scottish Labour lawmaker Monica Lennon, who introduced the bill in April 2019.
“Proud of what we have achieved in Scotland,” Lennon wrote on Twitter on Monday. “We are the first but won’t be the last.”
In a document supporting the legislation, Lennon said it was reasonable to expect 20% of the menstruating population to make use of the program, given that official inequality statistics show that nearly 20% of women in Scotland live in relative poverty.
The law is one of a string of programs designed to tackle period poverty in Scotland, which has certain devolved powers from the UK government.
In 2018, the Scottish government announced that students in schools, colleges and universities across the country would be able to access sanitary products for free, through a £5.2 million ($6.3 million) investment. In 2019, it allocated another £4 million ($4.85 million) to make period products available without charge in libraries and recreational centers.
In the United Kingdom as a whole, one in 10 girls aged 14-21 reported having been unable to afford period products, according to a 2017 survey from Plan International UK. The survey also found that nearly half were embarrassed by their periods, and about half had missed an entire day of school because of them.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan praised the new law on Twitter and called for more action from the UK government.
“A monumental day for #PeriodDignity. Credit to the many campaigners, trade unionists and @MonicaLennon7 who made this a reality,” Khan tweeted. “Now it’s time for the UK Govt to follow suit and put an end to period poverty.”
In January 2021, the UK abolished the 5% rate of value-added tax (VAT) on menstrual products. And in 2019, England launched an initiative to provide free sanitary products in schools.
Globally, just a handful of countries have zero tax added to sanitary products, including Canada, India, Australia, Kenya and several US states.
Last year, Germany voted to reduce its tax rate on feminine hygiene products after deeming them to be a daily necessity rather than a luxury.
CNN’s Amy Woodyatt, Rob Picheta and Ivana Kottasová contributed to this report.