Scotland could become the first country in the world to effectively end so-called “period poverty”, as Scottish Labour launch a bid to make access to women’s sanitary products a “basic right”.
Labour MSP Monica Lennon is proposing world leading legislation to end period poverty, and has launched a public consultation on her Member’s Bill that would force Scottish Ministers to introduce a “universal system” of free provision of sanitary products.
The legislation would also place a duty on schools and colleges throughout Scotland to provide free sanitary products in toilets, as well as measures to extend the duties to other public bodies in the future.
Monica Lennon MSP said: “Scotland has the opportunity to become a world leader in ending period poverty.
“Access to sanitary products should be a basic right but sadly in Scotland we know not everyone can afford or obtain what they need.”
The proposals have been welcomed by experts, organisations and a number of charities, including the Children and Young People’s Commissioner, Bruce Adamson.
Mr Adamson said: “Period poverty is a human rights issue. Having proper access to sanitary products is an essential element of human dignity and impacts on the ability to access other rights such as education, leisure and cultural activities.
“I welcome this consultation which is particularly important for young people. It is important that as many young people as possible make their views heard through this consultation.”
The Trussell Trust Scotland Network Manager, Ewan Gurr said: “The Trussell Trust network of foodbanks work at the frontline where we see the shame and embarrassment that the inaccessibility and unaffordability of sanitary items creates for many women and girls.
“It has been a pleasure to work alongside Monica and others to raise the profile of period poverty and we fully support the launch of the consultation.
“It is our hope and belief that it will add weight to the call for approaches that place dignity at the heart of provision.”
Suki Wan MSYP for Glasgow Shettleston, and Vice Chair of Scottish Youth Parliament said: “An overwhelming majority (99%) of the Scottish Youth Parliament’s members, which democratically represents young people across Scotland, believe that access to menstrual hygiene products is a basic human right.
“The proposed bill would facilitate access to this right, particularly for young people who struggle financially, those who are homeless, or those who live in extreme poverty.
“It will help break down the ‘taboo’ status of menstruation in everyday conversation, and the multiple discrimination women and trans people who menstruate experience as a result of period poverty.
“On this pressing issue, SYP stands in support of the bill and ending period poverty for good – so Scotland can really become the best place in the world to grow up.”
Women’s Aid South Lanarkshire and East Renfrewshire CEO, Heather Russell said: “We have been enthused by Monica Lennon’s address of this issue which is reflective of wider challenges faced by women.
“Women’s Aid South Lanarkshire and East Renfrewshire have always distributed donations including sanitary wears to those we support, however, following meeting and discussions with Monica we moved to a more respectful ‘help your self’ approach.
“This allows any person who requires sanitary wears to take what is required without having to ask from readily available stocks of donated goods in our office toilets, and all refuge accommodations.
“In understanding the challenges those we support are faced with we feel it important to lighten the load in any way that is practicable. With this in mind our ‘help your self’ approach has been extended to all generously received donations including clothes, toiletries and food.
“Whilst we do what we can as an organisation, we have our limits. As such, we fully support Monica’s proposed Members Bill which seeks to make access to essential sanitary products a legal right and look forward to further supporting her in this endeavour.”