Scotland's world-first Period Products Act is feminism in action – Laura Waddell

A day in Scottish history to celebrate: when we were the first country in the world to make menstrual supplies free to all those who need them.

Supporters of the Period Products Act, which became law this week, hold a rally outside the Scottish Parliament (Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)
Supporters of the Period Products Act, which became law this week, hold a rally outside the Scottish Parliament (Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)

The Period Products Act (2020), which came into force this week, feels so sensible, right, and just, that it’s almost a shock Scotland is the first, and only now, to codify it in law. Here’s hoping many follow.

Instead of progress-stymying party politics, citizens want to see our politicians working together to do what is best. That the final bill received unanimous cross-party support was an extra feelgood touch.

For anyone who has experienced it, a day lived in poverty has a hundred hidden hurdles, difficult decisions and sources of shame. Fundamentally, this legislation alleviates a specific, tangible way in which poverty can restrict dignity and freedom.

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The phrase ‘period poverty’ describes the difficulty some have affording or accessing sanitary provisions, and the embarrassment and discomfort that results. Those low on funds will no longer have to choose between essential sanitary provisions and other necessities.

Poverty, however, is not the only barrier to sanitary access. Outdated cultural taboos around menstruation and controlling domestic situations can put those reliant on others for sanitary provision in difficult and undignified positions.

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Free period products Scotland: World-first legislation is yet another ground-bre...

For some young people, lack of sanitary provision can mean missing whole days of school. Improving and ensuring access to menstrual supplies will improve personal freedoms, and reduce the limitations that come with that lack.

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This legislation is in support of the financial equality of women and girls, trans and non-binary people. It establishes menstrual provision in our parliament as a human right. It is in the interests of the dignity and bodily autonomy of its citizens. And so it is a good day in Scottish history, one well worth being proud of.

This is what sustained feminist campaigning and shared will can achieve. To observe it is galvanizing.

From the Women for Independence roundtable discussions that first opened my eyes to the matter to the women’s charities and poverty campaigners who drove the subject forward with their insight and expertise, and the bill ultimately proposed and championed by MSP Monica Lennon, it is a victory for many hands.

Forget the distracting culture wars trying to divide us – this is what really matters.

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