Remember the long fight to remove GST from pads and tampons in Australia?
Things could soon be very different in Scotland, where its parliament has voted to make sanitary products like tampons and pads free for women across a number of specific public places like community centres, pharmacies and youth clubs, via a bill proposed by Labour’s Monica Lennon.
The move would cost 24.1 million pounds, following the first stage passage of The Period Productions (Free Provision) Scotland Bill, which will now move onto the second stage where amendments are expected to be proposed.
And it comes after Scotland became the first country in the world in 2018 to offer free pads and tampons in schools and other educational institutions.
Lennon first proposed the bill in 2017 to help tackle “period poverty”, with a later 2018 poll finding more than 25 per cent of women across the UK have missed school or work because they could not afford menstrual products.
The FreePeriods campaign group has been fighting for the change along with numerous others, while other groups like Women’s Equality Party have called out anti-shoplifting messages placed by supermarkets next to sanitary products.
Thank you to everyone at @CWUnews @cwu_scotland for your commitment to #freeperiodproducts – the poster still has pride of place in my parliamentary office ✊https://t.co/33FlgdkfM2 https://t.co/YNAZWqX1SU
— Monica Lennon (@MonicaLennon7) February 25, 2020
The Bill passed its first stage with 112 votes in favour and one abstention, and was described by Lennon during the debate as marking 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.”
She held a sign at a rally outside the Scottish parliament with the words: “Access to menstrual products is a right. Period.”
The SNP was initially the only party opposing the bill during this first stage, with the Scottish Conservatives, Greens and Lib Dems all committing their support. The SNP then switched its support for the bill, but noted concerns about the practicality and deliverability of the bill in its current form.
A raft of amendments to the bill are now expected to be put forward, with the government raising “significant” concerns about its current form.
Currently, sanitary products in the UK carry a five per cent tax which was promised to be removed in 2016 under the David Cameron Government but with no change as yet.
— FreePeriodProducts (@Period_Poverty) February 25, 2020
Absolutely delighted to hear that @MonicaLennon7’s #FreePeriodProducts Bill has passed at the first stage, bringing girls, women and people with periods one step closer to #PeriodDignity. What a fantastic end to a busy day of activism! #EndPeriodPoverty pic.twitter.com/0wH30ZWInK
— Katie Horsburgh (@HorsburghKatie) February 25, 2020