Scotland becomes first country to give free period products – regardless of gender

period products

Scotland has become first country in the world to protect the right to free menstrual products for all who need them thanks to a new, inclusive piece of legislation.

Proposed in 2017 and unanimously passed in 2020, the Period Products (Free Provision) Act 2021 came into force on Monday (15 August).

Scotland has provided free period products to school students since 2017, but the act will now mean councils and education providers must legally provide them for free to all people who need them, regardless of age, gender or income.

The entire act is written using gender-neutral language, and the explanatory notes lay out the trans-inclusive nature of the legislation: “By defining a person’s needs in terms of menstruation by the person, this section ensures that the act applies to transgender and non-binary people who menstruate, and not just to women and girls.”

The act’s equality impact assessment, also released on Monday, acknowledges “transgender people may experience greater difficulty accessing period products, because menstruation is not associated with their gender identity”, and that “this may impact their wellbeing and can be a source of stress, anxiety and dysphoria”.

Period products like tampons and sanitary pads with the trans flag overlaid

Scotland’s period products legislation is trans and non-binary inclusive. (Envato/PinkNews)

It continues: “Not everyone who menstruates identifies as female, therefore as part of ensuring a dignified approach, responsible bodies must ensure that the arrangements put in place to meet their duties allow any individual who menstruates, including transgender men and non-binary individuals, to access products.”

The guidance says the language used in any consultations and delivery of the products should also be considerate of sex and gender equalities. In some cases men may wish to access products for free for family members or partners, it stated.

“In practice this is likely to require products to be available for free in, for example, at least some gender-neutral toilets, disabled toilets (where these are recommended for use by people who menstruate but do not wish to use female toilets), or male-only spaces.”

Monica Lennon, a period poverty campaigner, trans ally and Scottish Labour MSP, originally proposed the Period Products Act five years ago.

On Monday, she wrote on Twitter: “Proud of what we have achieved in Scotland. We are the first but won’t be the last.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan added: “A monumental day for #PeriodDignity. Credit to the many campaigners, trade unionists and Monica Lennon who made this a reality.

“Now it’s time for the UK government to follow suit and put an end to period poverty.”