By Lin Taylor
LONDON, Nov 24 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — Scotland on Tuesday made sanitary products free to all women, becoming the first nation in the world to take such a step against "period poverty".
The measure makes tampons and sanitary pads available at designated public places such as community centres, youth clubs, and pharmacies, at an estimated annual cost to taxpayers of £24 million ($32 million).
The Period Products (Free Provision) Scotland Bill passed unanimously, and First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon called it "an important policy for women and girls".
"Proud to vote for this groundbreaking legislation, making Scotland the first country in the world to provide free period products for all who need them," Sturgeon posted on Twitter.
During the debate, the bill's proposer, Scottish Labour MP Monica Lennon, said: "No one should have to worry about where their next tampon, pad, or reusable is coming from."
"Scotland will not be the last country to consign period poverty to history, but we have the chance to be the first," she said.
In 2018, Scotland became the first country to provide free sanitary products in schools, colleges, and universities.
Some 10% of girls in Britain have been unable to afford sanitary products, according to a survey by the children's charity Plan International in 2017, with campaigners warning many skip classes as a consequence.
Proud to vote for this groundbreaking legislation, 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. Well done to @MonicaLennon7@ClydesdAileen and all who worked to make it happen https://t.co/4lckZ4ZYIY— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) November 24, 2020
Sanitary products in the United Kingdom are taxed at 5%, a levy that officials have blamed on European Union (EU) rules that set tax rates on certain products.
Now that Britain has left the EU, British Finance Minister Rishi Sunak has said he would abolish the "tampon tax" in January 2021.
(Reporting by Lin Taylor @linnytayls, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories.)