West indian countries

Scotland just made menstrual products free for everyone. Where are the other countries?

For a very long time, women have wanted free access to menstrual products around the world. Scotland has now become the first country in the world to make menstrual products like tampons and sanitary napkins free for “anyone who needs them”.

What the law says? The new law will make menstrual products free in all public settings, including schools and universities in Scotland.

The law will ensure that:

  • The Scottish Government is setting up a Scotland-wide scheme to enable anyone in need of menstrual products to obtain them free of charge.
  • Schools, colleges and universities provide a range of period products free of charge in their washrooms.
  • The Scottish Government gives the power to compel other public bodies to provide period products free of charge.

This bill was adopted unanimously 121 votes in favor with 0 against and 0 abstentions.

Why this law? Monica Lennon introduced the bill in 2019 with the aim of addressing “period poverty”, which is when some people who need period products struggle to afford them.

“Women, girls and people who menstruate should never face the indignity of menstrual poverty,” she said.

Recent data shows that 500 million people worldwide do not have access to menstrual products and hygiene facilities. And due to Covid-19, rising inflation and the disruption of supplies of sanitary napkins due to the Russian-Ukrainian war have made menstrual products more difficult to access for menstruating people. Therefore, this milestone for Scotland comes at a much needed time and as a relief for women.

Period Laws in India: Only 18% of Indian women use menstrual hygiene products. Various factors contribute to this, such as poverty, misunderstanding and social taboos. We have no legal infrastructure that allows women in India to take menstrual leave.

Government approved periodic leave is only offered in Bihar. State government officials announced in January 1992 that all female employees would be granted two consecutive days off each month.

The Benefits of Menstruation Bill, 2017 was introduced in Parliament by MP Ninong Ering of Arunachal Pradesh. According to the bill, women working for public and private establishments registered with the central or state governments are entitled to two days of menstrual leave per month, or 24 days per year. However, some private companies, including Byju’s, Zomato and Culture Magazine, offer this benefit to their female employees.

Even though the GST for sanitary napkins is now zero in India, other products like tampons and menstrual cups still have to bear the GST burden.

Several organizations in India are working to benefit women and provide them with affordable sanitary pads, but we still have a long way to go before menstrual products are available to those who need them.

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