Period poverty law to be scrutinised by MSPs

Proposed legislation which could end "period poverty" in Scotland is set to go before MSPs for approval after receiving widespread backing.
Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon will have her period poverty Bill scrutinised by MSPs.Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon will have her period poverty Bill scrutinised by MSPs.
Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon will have her period poverty Bill scrutinised by MSPs.

Women’s and youth organisations, trade unions and charities are among the organisations who agree the Bill, proposed by Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon, should become law.

It aims to create a universal system of free access to period products for anyone who needs them and would place a legal duty on schools, colleges and universities to provide products for free, building on existing initiatives.

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The bid to introduce the law is the latest step following a series of successful grassroots campaigns to ensure free access to period products in public places, including train stations and football stadiums. The Scottish government has pledged £4m to boost provision in public buildings.

Public consultation on the Bill closed yesterday and the legislation will now go before Holyrood's Local Government and Communities committee to be scrutinised. However it has already received the backing of a wide range of organisations including Engender, the Scottish Youth Parliament, COSLA, trade unions PCS and Unite, the Equality Network, the Children and Young People’s Commissioner, Girlguiding Scotland, Simon Community Scotland, the Scottish Women’s Convention and the Young Women’s Movement (YWCA) in Scotland.

Statistics suggest that one in 10 girls between the ages of 14 and 21 in the UK have been unable to afford sanitary products, while 49 per cent have missed an entire day of school because of their period. According to research by Plan International UK, 12 per cent of girls admit to using “improvised” sanitary wear.

Today Monica Lennon said: “Scotland has a chance to end period poverty and promote menstrual health, by passing this world-leading legislation and creating a universal system of free access to period products.

“Across Scotland, campaigners have already achieved significant action on period poverty – it’s now time for Parliament to put access to period products on a legal footing and lead the rest of the world.

"Access to period products should be a basic right, but sadly in Scotland we know not everyone can afford or obtain what they need. This law would be a step towards a fairer, more equal Scotland for us all to live in.”

Emma Ritch, Executive Director of feminist organisation Engender, said the Bill would help to "destigmatise" menstruation and ensure a "lack of access to period products is not a barrier to women and girls’ participation in all aspects of life in Scotland.”

And Carolyn Fox McKay, Policy and Communications Manager at Girlguiding Scotland, said: "Period products aren’t a luxury. They’re an essential product and should be available to all those who need them. Too many girls and women are missing out on opportunities, face isolation or are forced to go without simply because they can’t afford them. This Bill is key to changing that and will also help to remove the stigma that surrounds periods."