The Scottish Parliament voted unanimously on Tuesday to require that menstrual products be provided to residents free of cost, making Scotland the first country in the world to do so.
The legislation is aimed at ending “period poverty” ― a term for the financial barriers that can prevent those who need pads and tampons from obtaining them.
The measure’s success follows a three-year campaign led by Monica Lennon, a member of the Scottish Parliament who also serves as the Scottish Labour Party’s health care spokeswoman.
Under the new law, the Scottish government is charged with setting up a nationwide program to distribute pads and tampons to anyone who needs them. Public buildings, including schools and universities, will also be required to provide the products in bathrooms just like toilet paper.
“It wasn’t easy but together we got there. A big day for Scotland,” Lennon said in a tweet.
She hopes the bill “will inspire other countries to follow our lead and normalise the notion that period poverty just isn’t acceptable,” Lennon told the Daily Record, a Glasgow tabloid.
“It really shouldn’t be a big deal. When you go into the toilet, you expect toilet paper to be there and you should be able to expect period products as well,” she said.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish government, called the bill “groundbreaking” over Twitter, saying that it is “an important policy for women and girls.”
Local governments in various countries have started requiring that menstrual products be offered alongside toilet paper in public facilities, but the policy has not been elevated to a national level until now. In the U.S., California, Illinois, New Hampshire and New York all require high schools to provide free period products, and similar legislation is pending in several other states.