Right to free period products now protected by law in Scotland

Scotland’s Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Act came into force today (Monday 15 August). The historic legislation makes Scotland the first country in the world to legally protect the right to free period products.

The legislation means Councils and education providers will be legally required to make period products available free of charge to anyone who needs them. The Scottish government has provided funding over the past five years to make period products available in a range of public settings.

People can find their nearest collection point through the PickupMyPeriod mobile app which was launched earlier this year by social enterprise Hey Girls with Scottish Government support.

Celia Hodson, founder of Hey Girls, said:

“The Period Product Act shows Scotland is leading the way in recognising that period products are not a luxury and should be freely available to all.

“Through our PickupMyPeriod app, we work to ensure no-one in Scotland is left without access to period products and are well on the way to achieving that with more than 1,000 locations highlighted to users.

“We hope the Act will help those in need and that our app will be of support to many more as our network continues to grow.”

Background

The Act builds on the Period Products in Schools (Scotland) Regulations which came into force in October 2020, placing a duty on local authorities and grant-aided schools to provide free products for pupils. The Scottish Government is providing £3.4 million in 2022-23 for access to free period products for students.

A survey of UK girls in 2017 commissioned by Plan International UK found that:

  • One in ten girls (10%) have been unable to afford sanitary wear
  • One in seven (15%) girls have struggled to afford sanitary wear
  • One in seven girls (14%) have had to ask to borrow sanitary wear from a
    friend due to affordability issues
  • More than one in ten girls (12%) has had to improvise sanitary wear due
    to affordability issues
  • One in five (19%) of girls have changed to a less suitable sanitary
    product due to cost

Young Scot published findings from an online survey in March 2018. Ninety two percent of survey respondents were currently in education. Around a quarter (26%) of respondents in education said they had ‘struggled to access sanitary products’ in previous year. Of those respondent in education who had experienced difficulty, 60% said that this was because they ‘didn’t have the product they needed’, while 43% said they ‘couldn’t afford to buy sanitary products’. The most common way these respondents coped was having to ask someone else for a tampon/towel (71%) or to use an alternative e.g. toilet paper (70%).

Tayside controversy

The Period Dignity Working Group – comprising Dundee and Angus College, Angus Council, Dundee City Council and Perth College – made headlines after announcing the appointment of Jason Grant in the role of Period Dignity Officer for the region.

It has drawn criticism, including writer Susan Dalgety dubbing it “institutionalised mansplaining” in a news interview and tennis star Martina Navratilova tweeting that it was an “absurd” decision. When questioned about the appointment, the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford agreed that “as a principle, it would be far better that women are in these posts”.

Mr Grant said in a statement that a man in this role could help “break down barriers, reduce stigma and encourage more open discussions”.

He continued: “Although affecting women directly, periods are an issue for everyone. We’ll also raise awareness of the menopause which, although a natural process for women, has wider repercussions in the world of work and family.

“It’s time to normalise these topics and get real around the subject. I believe I can make progress by proving this isn’t just a female topic, encouraging conversations across all genders and educating and engaging new audiences.”

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