Scotland has just made history as the first country in the world to make sanitary products free for all people.
According to the ABC, The Period Products Scotland bill, proposed by Scottish MP Monica Lennon has passed its first vote in parliament. While the scheme is estimated to cost around $47.5 million, it will ensure items including tampons and sanitary pads are free and accessible in public places like community centres, youth clubs and pharmacies.
“These are not luxury items,” Lennon said during the debate. “They are indeed essential and no one in Scotland should have to go without period products.”
Lennon noted that passing the bill would be a “milestone moment for normalising menstruation in Scotland and sending out that real signal to people in this country about how seriously parliament takes gender equality.”
Fellow MP Alison Johnstone added that “being financially penalised for a natural bodily function is not equitable or just.”
SBS reports that the Scottish government originally opposed the plan for free period products, but changed its tune after “coming under pressure from campaigners.”
It’s not the first step Scotland has made towards gender equality. Since 2018, Scotland has been providing free sanitary products in schools, colleges and universities.
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“We are changing the culture and it’s really exciting that other countries right around the world are watching very closely to see what we do,” Lennon said, begging the question – when will Australia follow suit?
In October 2018 – and after an 18-year campaign – the 10% tax on tampons and pads was removed in Australia. The move was said to cost the state $30M a year, but was necessary considering the fact that other health products including condoms and Viagra are also exempt from GST.
Last year, the Victorian government took another step in the right direction by providing free sanitary products in government schools in the state – but what about the rest of Australia?
Of the 3.2M Australians currently living below the poverty line, 52% of them are women and young girls. Unfortunately, many of these women are experiencing ‘period poverty’ and are unable to afford sanitary products.
That’s why organisations like Share the Dignity are so important. Last year, Woolworths agreed to donate five cents from every pack of sanitary items sold – including pads, tampons, liners and period briefs to the charity. These funds are used to install and maintain Pink Box Dignity Vending Machines that dispense free period packs to women and girls.
Share the Dignity, those who donate to the cause and its corporate partners are doing amazing work but there is still a long way to go until sanitary products are free and accessible to Australians on a national scale.
Scotland’s period products bill provides Australia with the motivation to remove the stigma associated with menstruation and fulfilling the basic rights of those in need.
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