Wednesday, 9 December 2020
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
Yesterday, the Scottish Parliament passed fantastic legislation, the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Act, which means period products are now available free of charge in all schools, colleges and universities. I welcome the move because it lights the way for girls and women, or all who menstruate, to be fully supported with the cost of their periods during their time in education and without a means test or qualification.
Sanitary products can cost between €2 and €6 per product. Previous governments have ensured the products are zero-rated for VAT. If one assumes 13 periods a year and the use of two products per period, the final cost per year is as high as €156. Over a lifetime, that amounts to between €6,000 and €7,000.
Period poverty was acknowledged by the United Nations when it stated that "lack of menstrual health management and stigma associated with menstruation both have a negative impact on gender equality and women’s and girls’ enjoyment of human rights, including the right to education and the right to health". Plan International conducted a survey of 1,100 girls aged between 12 and 19 years in Ireland that showed 61% o them have missed school due to a period and over 50% of teenage girls find it difficult to afford sanitary products. The high cost of menstrual products has led to girls using unsuitable products such as newspapers, toilet paper and clothing, which is horrific and unimaginable. I welcome that the programme for Government contains a provision to bring forward legislation for the free provision of menstrual products in schools, colleges and higher education institutes to ensure that no students are disadvantaged educationally. I am mindful of the economic hardship of the here and now so we need to advance the legislation more quickly. Therefore, I call upon the Minister for Health to bring forward the legislation as a matter of urgency and that we consider and be sensitive to all of the transgender requirements. We should follow the example of the Scottish Parliament as quickly and as closely as possible.