Scotland has officially become the first nation to approve a plan to provide free menstrual products for all in an unanimous vote on Tuesday, according to a report by Reuters. The bill will make pads and tampons free in public places like community centers, youth clubs, and pharmacies, piggybacking off of legislation already in place that requires complimentary menstrual products to be available in schools and universities.
"Why is it in 2020 that toilet paper is seen as a necessity but period products aren’t?" asked Scottish lawmaker Alison Johnstone during the debate, according to Reuters. "Being financially penalized for a natural bodily function is not equitable or just."
Monica Lennon, one of the bill's proposers, explained that the new legislation will be a "milestone moment for normalizing menstruation in Scotland and sending out that real signal to people in this country about how seriously parliament takes gender equality," said Reuters.
Notably, Scottish parliament passed the legislation with 112 votes in favor, none against, and one abstention. Now, lawmakers in the country will be able to propose amendments. If the bill becomes law, the government estimates that the cost of providing free period products will total $31.2 million per year.
"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.
Currently, The United Kingdom taxes period-related products at 5%. The United States also has a tampon tax. Thirty-three states still tax menstrual products including tampons, pads, liners, and period cups. This "pink tax" costs American taxpayers around $150 million each year.
“People have to take a step back and say, Oh my god, I’ve never thought about this, and yeah, that seems pretty unfair and discriminatory. It’s an awakening,” Jordana Kier, founder of organic feminine care brand LOLA, previously told Refinery29.
As Lennon reportedly said during a rally before the vote was passed, “Access to menstrual products is a right. Period.” It sounds like Scottish lawmakers are hearing the message.