Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

This country has become the first in the world to make sanitary products free

The decision to offer free sanitary products has been called an “an important policy for women and girls.”

The decision to offer free sanitary products has been called an “an important policy for women and girls.” Image: REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Lin Taylor
Journalist, Thomson Reuters Foundation
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  • Scotland now offers free sanitary products to all women, becoming the first nation in the world to do so.
  • The act makes tampons and sanitary pads freely available at designated public places such as community centres, youth clubs and pharmacies.
  • It's an important step tackle “period poverty.”
  • Children’s charity Plan International found that 10% of girls in Britain have been unable to afford sanitary products.

Scotland on 24th November made sanitary products free to all women, becoming the first nation in the world to take such a step against “period poverty.”

Free sanitary products to all women

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 pounds ($32 million U.S.).

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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 sanitary 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.

The free sanitary products will be available at designated public places.
The free sanitary products will be available at designated public places. Image: North Ayrshire Council

“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.

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 though free sanitary products might still be a distant goal.

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