In Scotland, the government takes care of your health and hygiene if you’re “down” with periods. It is the world’s first country to offer free and universal access to sanitary products. The Scottish government, under the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Act, will soon introduce a nationwide program, ensuring a legal duty on all local authorities to make women’s hygiene products, such as tampons and pads, absolutely free.
It is a completely different scene in India, which is still steeped into stigma, discrimination and shame over menstruation. The nightmares of torn and homespun cloth napkins have been haunting Indian women since ages. According to researches, over 70% women still consider periods to be “dirty” and hardly follow any menstrual hygiene. Only 18% of women in India use sanitary pads. Even those educated don’t want to talk about issues like women’s reproductive health and menstrual hygiene.
It is quite surprising that where the ruling BJP government has repeatedly stressed on maintaining cleanliness through Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, women’s health or menstrual hygiene is still not part of the Centre’s agenda. Menstruation is nothing but just a natural reaction to a woman’s body. A pack of sanitary pads costs around Rs 150 – Rs 200 in India. Despite portrayal of the issue of menstrual hygiene in Akshay Kumar-starrer Padman and Netflix’s Periods and End of Silence, there is dearth of awareness among the mass.
When the Centre can provide free birth control pills and condoms to keep the population under control, why cannot they offer free sanitary products to those in need? In India, there are millions of people who have to choose food over sanitary napkin. Scottish Minister Monica Lennon said, “This is not a luxury item. It is an item of need. And no one should be forced to live without the baggage of periods.” One hopes India would go the Scotland way someday.