Free sanitary products to be offered in Fribourg from 2024

Free sanitary products to be offered in Fribourg from 2024

From 2024, Fribourg will become the first German-speaking canton in Switzerland to offer free sanitary products. The move follows a successful pilot project conducted in the canton, with officials hoping the scheme will help fight “period poverty”.

Fribourg to offer free sanitary pads from 2024

In a statement given to the Swiss media, the State Council of Canton Fribourg announced that it will be offering free sanitary pads from 2024. The free pads will be available in over 70 public buildings, ranging from schools to museums, sports facilities and all administrative buildings in local councils (Gemeinden).

The decision follows a months-long test phase in the canton that saw sanitary products distributed for free. In a survey conducted at the end of the pilot, 90 percent of residents approved of the idea, so it was decided to make the change permanent at a vote on July 5, 2023. Alongside an awareness campaign, the project is set to cost 70.000 Swiss francs to implement and 36.000 francs a year to maintain.

Swiss canton hopes to fight period poverty

Speaking to reporters, the director of the Fribourg Social Welfare Office, Jean-Claude Simonet, said that the scheme is designed not only to give free sanitary products for "emergencies", but authorities also want to combat “period poverty”.

According to 20 Minuten, one in every 10 people in Fribourg is at risk of poverty. To avoid having to pay the high cost of tampons or pads, many impoverished people who menstruate resort to homemade alternatives such as toilet paper or diapers, which experts say “can harm their health”.

“Above all, we want to help those people who cannot afford these items as a matter of course,” Simonet argued. When asked why pads were the only thing being offered, not tampons, he explained that they “decided on panty liners because tampons can pose a health risk if used improperly."

Rest of Switzerland unlikely to follow Fribourg's lead

With the decision, Fribourg becomes the first German-speaking canton to offer sanitary products for free. The bilingual region joins Canton Vaud, Jura, and the cities of Zurich and Basel in offering menstrual products for free.

However, resistance does remain towards the policy, especially on the federal level. For example, in 2020 and taking inspiration from Scotland - the first country in the world to give free access to pads, tampons and panty liners - a similar proposal was submitted to the federal government by Greens National Councillor Léonore Porchet. However, it was rejected by the Federal Council, which argued it violated equality law and was not in line “with market principles”.

For more information about where the free pads can be found in Fribourg, check out the official press release (in German).

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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