Following legislation Tuesday, Scotland became the first country in the world to guarantee free access to menstrual products nationwide.
The bill, championed by Scottish Parliament Member Monica Lennon, sets out to combat what is known as “period poverty.” The term refers to a circumstance where a person who requires menstrual products cannot afford them or does not have easy access to them.
Under the new law, the Scottish government must make free and equal access to such products for all who need them. While the move is history-making, it’s been a long time coming in Scotland. Two years ago, the country made all menstrual products free of charge at universities. Now, lower schools and other public bodies will be compelled to provide such products, free of charge. The government estimates the program will cost an annual $32 million.
Following passage of the legislation, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon celebrated the move. Sturgeon, who is the highest-ranking member of the Scottish Parliament, is also the first woman to serve in the position.
“Proud to vote for this groundbreaking legislation,” Sturgeon wrote, “making Scotland the first country in the world to provide free period products for all who need them. An important policy for women and girls.”
In her celebratory tweet, she also congratulated Monica Lennon, the bill’s sponsor, and Aileen Campbell, a leading proponent of the measure in Parliament.
For her part, Lennon extended thanks to the advocacy groups that were critical to the bill’s passage. She also applauded Scottish Parliament for its collaborative effort. (The bill passed with unanimous approval).
“We have shown that this Parliament can be a progressive force for change when we collaborate,” she said outside Parliament minutes before voting. “Our prize is the opportunity to consign period poverty to history. In these dark times, we can bring light and hope to the world this evening.”
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