Scotland has become the first country to provide free health products to students in schools, colleges and universities, an effort to banish "period poverty," in which girls and women lose their education because they can not afford protection.
The government announced last week a project with a cost of 5.2 million pounds, or about $ 6.4 million, to supply 395,000 students with essential health products every month, starting in September.
"In a country as rich as Scotland, it is unacceptable that someone should struggle to buy basic health products," Aileen Campbell, secretary of communities, said in a statement Friday.
She said the investment would provide "these essential products" to those who need them "in a sensitive and dignified manner, which will make it easier for students to focus completely on their studies."
The decision has prompted politicians to urge other parts of the United Kingdom to introduce similar programs.
According to Plan International UK, a charity for girls' rights, thousands of young women in Britain miss school regularly because they can not buy products for their period, and more than one in 10 girls has had to improvise health products. : wearing old clothes or newspapers, for example.
Deirdre Kingston, spokeswoman for equality for the Labor Party in Ireland, asked that the plan be extended also in his country.
"We know anecdotally that some schools and teachers provide health products to students, however, this is often done on an ad hoc basis without a real structure," he said on Tuesday. "The government should try to follow the example of Scotland and provide free health products to all schools and universities."
Kingston also said the program should be extended to low-income women, as they often could not afford essential health products.
Tables classified as "luxury" items
Women's charities have campaigned for a long time to abolish the 5 percent tax on health products in Britain, but the government has not been authorized due to European Union standards that classify sanitary items as products "of luxury, not essential. "
In 2015, George Osborne, then British Chancellor of the Treasury, announced that the 15 million pounds in taxes collected through the sale of health products would be spent to help women's charities.
However, the decision caused widespread outrage due to the implication that only women were being taxed to provide assistance.
Last year, supermarket chains such as Tesco decided to cover the 5 percent tax on medical devices. Other suppliers reduced prices on hundreds of products to pay the tax.
To draw attention to the issue, Danielle Rowley, a Scottish member of the British Parliament, broke a taboo by being late for a debate in the House of Commons in June. He apologized, saying that he was having his period and that it cost him 25 pounds a week.
The Scottish initiative is seen as a way to contribute to a more open conversation on the subject and to reduce the stigma associated with the periods. The government said it had worked closely with partners such as Universities Scotland to make sure the products were available to students.
"Periods are a part of life," said Susannah Lane, director of public affairs at Universities Scotland, which represents the country's higher education institutions.
"It should not be a point of inequality, compromising someone's quality of life or being a distraction to spend most of the time in college, so this is a positive step," he added.
In the United States, the tax on sales of tampons and other health products varies from state to state. In 2016, New York eliminated sales tax on menstrual products. States like Maine, New Jersey and Pennsylvania also exempt feminine hygiene products from sales tax.