Scotland Made Menstrual Products Free In Public Places

Supermajority Education Fund

March 4, 2020

On February 26, the Scottish Parliament approved a plan to make menstrual products available for free in public places, including community centers, pharmacies, and youth clubs. Reuters reported that the vote passed with 112 in favor, none opposed, and one in abstention. 

Although Scotland has had a national policy that requires schools and universities to offer free menstrual products in place since 2018, this is a big step for the country. The bill’s sponsor, Monica Lennon, said in Parliament that this moment is a “milestone moment for normalizing menstruation in Scotland and sending out that real signal to people in this country about how seriously parliament takes gender equality.”

In 2019, U.S. Representative Grace Meng (D-NY), introduced a bill that would make menstrual products free in federal public buildings. The Menstrual Equity Act of 2019 would give states the option to use federal grant money to make menstrual products free in schools and would require Medicaid to cover the cost of the products. The bill would also require employers with more than 100 employees have to provide free menstrual products in their offices.

Meng introduced the bill last March, but the House has yet to vote on it. 

 U.S. lawmakers have long been resistant to legislation advocating for free and accessible menstrual products. Advocates have fought to remove the “tampon tax” — or the tax added to the product for being a “luxury item”removed from menstrual products in some states, and have succeeded in eight so far. But they still face resistance in other states. 

In February, Tennessee Sen. Sara Kyle introduced SB 1724, a bill that would ensure tampons, pads, liners, cups, and douches are excluded from tax during a three day tax holiday. Republican lawmakers in the state, however, oppose the legislation.

“I am urging a very small amount of dollars, but it sends a large signal that our state is taking a very important step of recognizing these products as a necessity and are an essential part of women’s health,” Kyle said when she introduced the bill.

Nadya Okamoto, the founder of and executive director of PERIOD, an organization fighting to end period poverty and stigma around menstruation, told Supermajority News that this legislation could significantly help people with periods in the U.S. for whom buying menstrual products is a financial challenge.

“The stigma around periods promotes the idea that menstrual hygiene is a privilege and not a right,” Okamoto said. “I see every day in my work, and the national studies we have conducted at PERIOD, that period poverty is a real issue that holds people back from school and economic opportunity. The first city-wide study [PERIOD conducted] found that 46 percent of low-income women had to choose between a meal and period products…We need a cultural shift to frame menstrual hygiene as a right and not a privilege.”