Labour pledges to introduce free sanitary products in fight against period poverty

CommonSpace’s David Thomson reports from the Labour party conference in Brighton

THE NEW SHADOW women’s minister has said that a Labour government will end period poverty.

Dawn Butler MP said that a Labour government would provide free universal access to sanitary products.

Butler told delegates at the Labour Party’s Women Conference on Saturday that she would provide funding for free sanitary products for secondary schools, food banks and homeless shelters.

Butler added that this would enable girls and women to have easy access to sanitary products when they need it.

"Low-income families shouldn’t have the additional burden of struggling to afford sanitary products, or homeless women suffering on the streets, or young girls having to use socks in their pants, or missing school once a month because they just can’t afford sanitary protection.” Dawn Butler MP

Butler said: "On average, every female spends around £5,000 in their lifetime on sanitary products. In the year 2000, Labour reduced the VAT on sanitary products from 17.5 per cent to five per cent. It was a good start, but we could have done better.  David Cameron was pressured by the tampon tax campaign, helped by one of my team, the MP for Dewsbury.  But the response has been lacking in real commitment.

"Low-income families shouldn’t have the additional burden of struggling to afford sanitary products, or homeless women suffering on the streets, or young girls having to use socks in their pants, or missing school once a month because they just can’t afford sanitary protection.

"There are many solutions to this problem: free sanitary products in schools and colleges; free prescriptions for sanitary protection or reusable cups.

"With all of our efforts, we could eradicate the problem in our lifetime. After all, it’s not our choice whether we have periods. It’s far from a luxury, so why should we suffer? If men had periods, this would have been resolved a long time ago - period.”

"My proposal for world-leading legislation in Scotland is gaining widespread support and I'm delighted to be working with UK Labour colleagues on our shared commitment to end period poverty." Monica Lennon

Butler will work with Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon, who has already table a private members’ bill in the Scottish Parliament which hopes to introduce universal access to sanitary products.

Lennon, Scottish Labour’s inequalities spokesperson, said: "Access to sanitary products is essential for good health and wellbeing and I'm proud that the Labour Party is championing this human right in Scotland, the UK and internationally. 

"My proposal for world-leading legislation in Scotland is gaining widespread support and I'm delighted to be working with UK Labour colleagues on our shared commitment to end period poverty."

Lennon’s members’ bill is currently out for consultation, which can be accessed via periodpoverty.scot. The deadline for the consultation is 9 December 2017.

“[Scottish Government] will introduce a scheme to fund access to free sanitary products in schools, colleges and universities and consider action to support those on low incomes, but not in education, in light of the findings of this pilot.” Scottish Government

A £42,000 project is currently run by the Community Food Initiatives North East that will benefit 1,000 girls and women in the north east of Scotland, while also informing the Scottish Government on the future approach before rolling the project out nationwide.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “It is unacceptable that any woman or girl in Scotland should be unable to access sanitary products. The pilot scheme in Aberdeen is a first step to help us understand the barriers women and girls face – and to help us develop a sensitive and dignified solution to making these products easily accessible to those who need them.

“We will introduce a scheme to fund access to free sanitary products in schools, colleges and universities and consider action to support those on low incomes, but not in education, in light of the findings of this pilot.”

 Read more of our coverage of the period poverty campaign:

Sturgeon: Sanitary products during menstruation are not a luxury but a necessity

STUC backs campaign to end 'period poverty' for women

Women for Independence launches national survey on women's access to sanitary products

Labour MSP: Period poverty could put women's lives at risk

Picture courtesy of 小草 

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