47% of people who menstruate have previously reported a lack of inclusivity

BY ELEANOR NOYCE, IMAGES VIA PEXELS

On Monday 15 August, Scotland became the first country in the world to universally issue free menstruation products as the Period Products (Free Provision) Act 2021 came into force. Originally proposed in 2017 by period poverty campaigner and Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon and passed in 2020, Scotland has provided free period products to school students since 2017. This new law, the global first of its kind, obligates councils and educational providers to supply them to all who need them irrespective of age, gender or income.

A monumental step forward for trans people across Scotland, the act is explicitly worded with gender neutral language throughout, stating: “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.”

“Transgender people may experience greater difficulty accessing period products, because menstruation is not associated with their gender identity”, it further outlines. “This may impact their wellbeing and can be a source of stress, anxiety and dysphoria. 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 legislation will further permit cis men to access products on behalf of family members. Gender-neutral toilets – safe spaces for people of all genders, particularly non-binary and trans people – are likely to introduce period products to reframe the narrative, ensuring access for all.

Importantly, this new bill will not only facilitate a more trans-inclusive outlook on periods but it will tackle period poverty. In 2018, one study concluded that almost one in five women in Scotland have experienced period poverty, with one in ten reporting needing to prioritise other household items on account of finances. 22% stated not being able to change their products as often as they would like, with 11% having experienced health issues from UTIs to thrush because of this.

Globally, inclusive period care brand Freda found that 47% of people – almost half – who have menstruated reported a lack of period inclusivity, notably struggling with safe and affordable access to period products on account of social stigma. 14% reported struggling to afford period products on at least one occasion. One roundtable found that hyperfeminine packaging furthered shame surrounding period products, contributing to the narrative that only women menstruate.

In 2022, UK supermarkets Aldi and ASDA rebranded their “feminine hygiene” aisles to “period products”, encouraging and actively envisaging greater inclusion. Further, trans people globally are at greater risk of experiencing poverty than their cis counterparts: one US-based study found that, in 2019, close to three in ten transgender adults – alongside three in ten cisgender bisexual women – were living in poverty. The figures for Latinx transgender adults and Black transgender adults represent 48% and 39% respectively, with wider LGBTQI workers earning 90 cents for every dollar earned by a typical worker. Something needs to change.

Scotland’s new law is setting unprecedented standards for period provision. Now, tampons and sanitary pads will be free to access across community centres, youth clubs and pharmacies. And there’s more hope yet: in February 2021, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that all schools would begin providing free period products, with similar laws in place across New South Wales and Victoria in Australia, Illinois, Washington, New York, New Hampshire and Virginia in the US, Kenya, South Africa, Botswana and more.

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