Vintage map

Browse all

Scotland is 1st nation to make period products free

The proposal, supported by Labour member Monica Lennon, is law: local authorities will provide tampons and pads free to everyone who needs them.

Scotland is 1st nation to make period products free The proposal, supported by Labour member Monica Lennon, is law: local authorities will provide tampons and pads free to everyone who needs them.

Scotland takes a big step in support of women empowerment: it has become the first nation in the world to make period products free. Members of Parliament in Edinburgh voted unanimously to approve the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Act, the law supported by Labour leader Monica Lennon who, during the debate in the House Lennon said:

No one should have to worry about where their next tampon, pad or reusable is coming from. Scotland will not be the last country to consign period poverty to history, but we have the chance to be the first.

And, following the approval of this important law, called "practical and progressive", she told to The Guardian:


This will make a massive difference to the lives of women and girls and everyone who menstruates. There has already been great progress at a community level and through local authorities in giving everyone the chance of period dignity.

The Scottish government was already among the major supporters of the Menstrual Revolution, which in recent years has become increasingly strong and fights against taboos (which in some countries like India strongly affect women's lives) and promote the normalization of menstruation and already gave free tampons in schools and universities, but with the new law goes further: local authorities will provide them for free to anyone who needs them.

Thanks to the collective commitment and, in particular, that of Lennon, who since 2016 has run a campaign to eliminate the so-called period poverty, i.e. the economic difficulties in obtaining pads and other products for the menstrual cycle every month, Scotland becomes an example of civilization and equality to follow. It seems that data from recent research has been crucial in the decision. Like the Plan International UK study, which is shocking: 10% of girls aged between 14 and 21 said they could not afford tampons, 15% said they struggled to buy them and 14% said they asked a friend because tampons are too expensive. The results reported by the BBC are quite similar: if you consider that the typical period of a woman consists of about 5 days, the cost in tampons is about 8 pounds per month, and about 25% of students (school or university age) say they have financial difficulties to buy tampons, while 10% of young people across the UK said they are not able to buy them at all. The problem is also a social stigma. Menstruation is the latest taboo: more than 70% of girls under the age of 21 say they feel strongly embarrassed to buy tampons in commercial areas such as supermarkets or pharmacies.

The situation has been further complicated by the pandemic. According to the Guardian, in fact, in the UK, since the beginning of the health crisis the demand for free menstrual products has grown six times more than before, so much so that many Scottish pubs and restaurants, as an individual initiative, have started to provide free tampons.

How about the rest of the world? While Scotland has now budgeted about £9.2 million (about €10.3 million) to make pads and tampons available in sports clubs, by local authorities and through charities in a reasonably easy way and with reasonable discretion to all women who request them, several other countries have already lowered or eliminated taxes on periods products. In France, the tampon tax was reduced in December 2015 from 20% to 5.5%; in Belgium it went from 21% to 6% in 2018. There are also those who have completely eliminated taxation as they have done, for example, Ireland, India, Jamaica, Lebanon, Nicaragua, Nigeria and Tanzania. 

Sadly, on the threshold of 2021, Italy once again stands out for its retrograde and discriminatory attitudes towards women. Here, the tampon tax is 22%, the same applied to luxury goods. Pads, tampax or menstrual cup are not considered essential goods, as if the period is optional and not something physiological.

Every month I spend about eight euros in tampons. I have an abundant flow (not to mention premenstrual losses) and the 18 pieces of a pack are never enough for me. In my life I have also used internal tampons and even those cost a lot. On each package, I pay like all the vat, the one on women's health products, which is equal to 22 percent. The tampon, tampax or vaginal cup are not considered essential goods. They are not like bread or a newspaper, according to the Italian government.

Igiaba Scego wrote in an interesting and smart article a few years ago for  Internazionale, reminding everyone that even in Italy the period is still considered a taboo and a parameter of gender inequality. 


Last year, a group of members of parliament tried to reverse the trend by proposing to apply a 5% tampon tax to prevent women from spending considerable amounts of money to buy something really essential, but the majority of the government decided that it should remain fixed at 22%. The demand for a change of period products does not stop. For example, the State University of Milan, the first Italian university to decide on such a step, has introduced tampon tax distributors at a moderate price; while the associations WeWorld and  Onda Rosa, which are firmly aware that the tampon tax is a real form of economic violence against women, return to ask Parliament for a reduction of IVA from 22% to 5% on tampons.