Scotland’s new law has made menstrual products free for anyone who needs them. It also means that the country’s 2018 decision to provide free menstrual products in schools, colleges and universities will be enshrined in law. Gabby Edlin is the founder of Bloody Good Period – a charity that provides menstrual products for those who can’t afford them. They currently partner with nearly 100 asylum seeker drop-in centres around the UK. Here, she discusses why Scotland’s decision is so momentous.
“As the daughter of two generations of Scots, today’s announcement is very close to home. It feels personal but political in the way that feminist activism often does. It’s extremely significant that the law has been passed during the pandemic, too – a time when poverty is on the up and Bloody Good Period has been providing six times the amount of menstrual products it usually does. It means that for those who are struggling, tampons, pads and reusable products are finally accessible. I think people underestimate how difficult it can be – for an asylum seeker who's entitled to just 38 pounds a week, for example, even a pound for a box of pads is often not feasible.
Everyone in the period world is celebrating today because Scotland has opened up a conversation that, for us, consistently gets shut down. People don’t want to talk about anything that affects women, or anything that’s considered “taboo”, so the fact that menstruation is headline news today is huge.
And although much of the focus is rightly on the availability of disposable pads and tampons, moving forward, a lot more needs to be done to make reusable menstrual products widely available – like menstrual cups or period pants. It’s something that will change a lot of people's relationships with their periods, and is also incredibly cost effective. Disposables are still important for those who are uncomfortable with reusables, who don't have the washing facilities to use them, who don't have the relationship with their body that's required to use cups or who don’t want to use them for religious or cultural reasons. But regardless, an increased emphasis on reusables will be good for both people and the planet.
Menstruation is such a nuanced subject, so there needs to be a nuanced approach when it comes to the needs of different groups. Refugees and asylum seekers often experience heavy bleeding because of trauma, for example. In order to make sure they are adequately covered by Scotland's new law, there needs to be a huge amount of communication between the government and the facilities that refugees and asylum seekers use. Often asylum seekers and charities are left out of these conversations when they should be right at the forefront, consulting and advising on the best way to make menstrual products accessible for them.
I’m an optimist – I believe that if they can do it in Scotland, we can do it in the rest of the UK too. But the government needs to stop viewing menstrual products as luxuries. To be able to live a healthy, dignified life, you need to be able to take care of your period. It’s not right that people are trapped inside the house because they don’t have access to menstrual products – this is a matter of people's self esteem, their health and their livelihoods. Ultimately, it's a matter of human rights”
Bloody Good Period has launched a petition calling for the UK government to make menstrual products free and available to all: change.org/bloodyfree