14/08/2017 07:06 BST | Updated 14/08/2017 12:34 BST

Period Poverty: Scotland Could Offer Free Sanitary Products Under New 'Universal System'

'Access to sanitary products should be a basic right.'

Scotland could become the first country in the world to introduce legislation that eliminates period poverty. 

Labour MSP Monica Lennon will table a Bill in the Scottish Parliament on Monday that places a legal duty on ministers to provide the “basic right” of universal free sanitary products.  

It comes after a series of reports revealed young women are using socks, tissues and even skip school during their period because they cannot afford tampons or towels.

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Scotland could become the first country in the world to introduce legislation that eliminates period poverty

If Lennon’s Bill, on which public consultation starts this week, wins cross-party support, then schools, colleges and universities will provide free sanitary products and a system will be put in place that guarantees all women have free access to tampons or sanitary towels. 

Lennon, Scottish Labour’s equalities spokesperson, said: “Scotland has the opportunity to be 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. 

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Scottish Labour's Monica Lennon

“That’s why I intend to introduce a legal duty on the Scottish Government to develop a universal system in Scotland which will provide free sanitary products for anyone who needs them.

“My proposal also includes a statutory duty on schools, colleges and universities to provide free sanitary products in their toilets. Having your period shouldn’t result in anyone missing class.

“This is a big step towards creating a fairer and more equal society and I hope to hear from people right across Scotland during the consultation.” 

The Scottish Government launched a pilot scheme for low-income women and girls in Aberdeen to be offered free sanitary products and campaigners are optimistic the Bill will get support.

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Education Secretary Justine Greening 

Children and Young People’s Commissioner, Bruce 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 move will also put further pressure on the UK Government to take action. 

Baroness Lorely Burt, the Lib Dems’ equalities spokesperson, has written to Education Secretary Justine Greening as she says thousands of lives are blighted by period poverty.   

She said: “You’ll have no doubt heard heart-breaking stories of young women being forced to use socks, tissues and other rudimentary and inappropriate materials in the place of sanitary products due to the poverty they are living in.

“This cannot be acceptable in a society as developed and prosperous as Britain.”

The Department for Education said Greening was committed to looking into the issue.