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S5W-01459: Monica Lennon (Central Scotland)

Scottish Labour

Date lodged: 13 July 2016

To ask the Scottish Government what recent action it has taken to assess the affordability of feminine hygiene products and the cost of periods to women and girls; whether it considers feminine hygiene to be a health issue; what action it is taking to tackle the stigma around periods, and whether it plans to introduce free access to feminine hygiene products.

Answered by: Shona Robison 9 August 2016

The Scottish Government has done no specific work to assess the costs of periods to women and girls. However there are undoubtedly genuine costs for women and girls associated with feminine hygiene and over an entire lifetime these could be significant.Feminine hygiene is not a health issue. Menstruation is normal. Where it becomes abnormal – excessive or infrequent – and potentially does become a health issue, treatments exist to help with this.While there is undoubtedly embarrassment and taboo about periods, we are not aware of any research evidence identifying particular stigma in relation to periods in Scotland.The Government currently has no plans to introduce free access to feminine hygiene products. However, we have invested in a range of other services to support people on low income or facing an acute income crisis. This includes the £33 million a year Scottish Welfare Fund which provides a safety net for vulnerable people on low incomes; investment in a range of advice services specifically designed to maximise income, support the transition on to new benefits, support lone parents and tackle unmet debt and financial capability; and our £1 million a year Fair Food Fund which will support community projects that help people access affordable food and develop skills, confidence and social networks.We are aware that food banks in Scotland will often provide sanitary products, usually as part of a broader offer of other personal hygiene products such as nappies or soap.