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New Scottish law makes menstrual products free

Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market, in Sacramento.
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton’s Market in Sacramento. In Scotland, a new law makes such products free to whoever needs them.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

A law has taken effect in Scotland to ensure menstrual products are available free of charge to anyone who needs them.

The Scottish government said it became the first in the world to legally protect the right to access free menstrual products when its Period Products Act came into force Monday.

Under the new law, schools, colleges and universities as well as local government bodies must make products such as tampons and sanitary pads available for free in their bathrooms. The Scottish government already has invested millions of pounds since 2017 to fund free menstrual products in educational institutions, but the law makes it a legal requirement.

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A mobile phone app also helps people find the nearest place — such as a library or community center — where they can pick up menstrual products.

“Providing access to free period products is fundamental to equality and dignity, and removes the financial barriers to accessing them,” Scottish Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison said.

“This is more important than ever at a time when people are making difficult choices due to the cost-of-living crisis and we never want anyone to be in a position where they cannot access period products,” she added.

The bill, which was passed unanimously in 2020, was introduced by Scottish Parliament lawmaker Monica Lennon, who had campaigned against “period poverty” — when someone who needs sanitary products can’t afford them.

“Proud of what we have achieved in Scotland,” Lennon tweeted Monday. “We are the first but won’t be the last.”

The Scottish government said its move was world-leading, with countries including South Korea and New Zealand taking similar approaches.

Last year New Zealand’s government said all schools in the country would offer free menstrual products, as part of a drive to help students from poorer families who were missing school because of period poverty.


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