Scotland made public health history on Monday as they introduced a new law for public places to supply free period products for women. The Period Products Act ensures that councils, schools, colleges and universities all provide tampons, pads and other sanitary products to those who need them for free. And after the landmark legislation, everyone is asking the same question: will the rest of the UK follow in Scotland’s footsteps?
Period poverty is a big problem in the UK because menstruating really isn’t cheap. Over our lifetimes, the average woman will spend approximately £18,000 on period products, and menstruating is becoming ever more expensive thanks to the cost-of-living crisis. Great.
In the first three months of 2022, there was actually a 78% increase in the need for free period products, according to the charity Bloody Good Period. Thanks to the rise in energy bills and the price of food, hygiene essentials like tampons, pads, toothpaste and nappies are being sought out at hygiene banks, rather than supermarkets because people simply can’t prioritise them in their dwindling budgets.
And due to inflation and supply chain issues, supermarkets are also raising the price of their period products. Over 12 months, Tesco has doubled the price of its least expensive pads from 2p per item and 23p per pack to 4p per item and 42p per pack. So, although many of us celebrated when the 5% VAT tampon tax was abolished in 2016, thanks to these increases little has changed.
Support under the government’s Period Product Scheme is available to state schools for children between 16 and 19 in England – but outside that demographic there’s little to no support for women and girls who can’t afford to menstruate. Following Scotland’s landmark decision to make period products free, campaigners are calling on the rest of the UK to step up and do the same. It’s about time women and people who menstruate were financially supported for biology beyond our control.
Away from Scotland, there is no law to protect a woman’s right to free period products in the UK. The government promised to end period poverty by 2050 and pledged £2million to tackle the issue globally as well as £250,000 for a government taskforce but, so far, no clear strategy or progress to tackle the crisis has been outlined in a report.
‘Freedom4girls are delighted [by Scotland’s decision] and it’s a massive step forward in the fight to support the end of suffering the indignity and shame period poverty brings,’ founder Tina Leslie told Grazia of the country’s landmark legislation. ‘People are having to make difficult choices because of the cost-of-living crisis. This bill will elevate some of those issues although there is a still a big issue around stigma and taboo. Well done, Scotland.’
‘Let’s hope that the UK government follows suit with reactivation of the period poverty taskforce with the £250,000 the government promised in 2019 to tackle the issue.’