Scotland has become the first country in the world to make pads and tampons free for girls and women, after parliament unanimously passed the legislation on Tuesday. 

Pads and tampons have already been free for Scottish students since 2018 and they will now be available for free in public places such as sports clubs, universities, etc. It’s a huge win for all Scottish women.

But it also makes you wonder: why is this not the case in the Netherlands? Why are toilet paper, hand soap, and paper towels always available for free in public restrooms — but menstrual products are not?

The Netherlands isn’t immune to period poverty

Research by De Bovengrondse has shown that 10 percent of young women in the Netherlands sometimes cannot afford sanitary pads or tampons. In fact, one in 10 Dutch girls may not go to school because they have their period and have no money for tampons.

A pack of sanitary pads at the supermarket or pharmacy costs €1.09. Some may say that is not that expensive. But for many low-income families, particularly those with daughters, that price can be a huge barrier.

READ MORE | Women’s healthcare in the Netherlands: the complete guide

A study from Plan International has shown that almost 10 percent of Dutch girls and women between the ages of 12 and 25 only sometimes have enough money for sanitary pads or tampons.

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Nowhere to turn

In the Netherlands, many people with a low income can go to the food bank to get something to eat. But when it comes to menstruation, period poverty is a cause for (extra) stress, especially for lower-income and homeless women, or women who are in prison.

It is an extra expense that people usually don’t think about and can lead to unsanitary and unhealthy conditions with the problems that come with them if we ignore it as a society.

Efforts to make pads and tampons free in the Netherlands

The Dutch House of Representatives has discussed making sanitary products for women free — to no avail.

According to Het Dames Verband, a period fundraising campaign from De Bovengrondse, the government believes it has enough measures in place to reduce poverty.

However, change may be possible on a municipal level. Amsterdam, Utrecht, and Gouda are all investigating how they can relieve period poverty for their residents.

Het Dames Verband is continuing on a quest for more research, and initiatives to make menstrual products free of charge (or reimbursed) in schools, shelters, and other public places.

READ MORE | Universal Basic Income in the Netherlands: would it work?

Without sanitary products

Around the world, there are currently about 800 million girls and women having their periods. While all of those women need tampons, sanitary pads, or other forms of sanitary products, many don’t have access. Some women resort to using rags, whatever they have nearby, or nothing at all.

As we know, menstruation is natural, biological, and often unavoidable. In many cultures, even here in the Netherlands, menstruation is still very much a taboo, and people who are less fortunate are often ashamed of their financial situation.

Due to the taboo surrounding menstruation and the shame of a low income, period poverty and shame are things that girls often have to deal with.

Eliminating period poverty

The truth is this: women should not be dependent on their income when it comes to hygiene during periods. Menstruation is just as much a part of going to the toilet as having a bowel movement. It is natural and making women spend money for it is both unfair and feels like punishment for something they have no hand in.

Sanitary pads, tampons or other hygienic means for menstruation should be free and available wherever toilet paper is available.

Kudos to the Scots on the initiative. Now, we are waiting for the Netherlands to follow in their footsteps.

Eliminating period poverty in the Netherlands can be achieved. We need to stop talking about it and just do it. Access to free menstrual products is a right. Period!

Do you think pads, tampons, and other menstruation products should be free in the Netherlands? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

Feature Image: Viktoria Slowikowska/Pexels

6 COMMENTS

  1. Be good to the environment and provide reusable products, like the menstrual cup, for free. We can all clean them hygienically in this country, so it’s a win win.

  2. This is one of the most absurd ideas I have ever read about! In the first place comparing toilet paper and soap in public restrooms to tampons is ridiculous; EVERYONE uses TP and soap, not only some people. Discrimination (for or against) is still discrimination and it’s totally unfair. Secondly, the vast, overwhelming majority of women can and do afford their menstrual supplies. Third, not all women are having periods; some are too young, some are too old, some are on birth control medication that precludes them having their period, still others have had medical procedures which results in them no longer having periods. Fourth, how many women and girls who claim they cannot afford tampons have a cell phone with a monthly subscription or purchase prepaid cards, how many eat candy, drink soda, or eat at McDonald’s.

    If the legislature wants to make tampons free why not go ahead and make food, clothing and shelter free as well? The fact is there is no such thing as FREE!

  3. It doesn’t have to be free but it should be tax free.
    In many countries it has the same tax as luxury products, and that is ridiculous.

    It should be freely available and more easily accessible at least in schools for those in need though.

  4. Im sure all those comments are written by men. But I am a woman and I agree. Did you know that women pay 7 to 13 euros per month for their period? That amounts to 84 to 156 euros a year. Mayby that doesn’t sound that much for you, but like the article said, 1 out of 10 girls doen’t go to school because she hasn’t bot the money. Doens’t that shock you? School is so important and so many girls are missing things now. I don’t accapt that.
    Yes, live is unfair, but don’t I speak for everyone when I say I bloody hate it? Because it is unfair that women have to pay 84 to 156 euros every year and men not. Not to mention that womens get a lower salary than men. (And don’t come p to me with an excuse that men have to pay for shaving foam, that is a choise and many woman use that too.)
    So, let tampons and sanitary pads be freely avaible and make millions and millions of all kind of women and girls, verry verry happy!

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