I always find—I am sure everyone will agree—that when looking at legislation it is important to remember who we are talking about and think through who will be affected by legislative changes. I will focus on one reason why amendment 226 is so important. I want to share with the Committee the story of Zara, whom I came to know extremely well, though not as well as my sister came to know her.
It took a long time for the trust to build up with Zara. She was extremely religious, came from a middle eastern country as an asylum seeker and had been refused asylum. She was therefore destitute. She came to trust my sister and, in her broken English, eventually managed to tell her what she needed. I do not want to say the words I am going to say, but I am going to say them anyway. What she needed was sanitary towels. She shared two stories—this came later, after more trust was built up—of cringe-worthy, humiliating experiences that she had gone through because she was destitute and had no support.
Once, when Zara was coming off the bus—and before anyone complains that if she had money for bus fares she had money for hygiene products, those bus tickets were given by a Glasgow charity that helps people with getting about—she heard a little boy saying something to his mum. She could not quite make out what he was saying, but he was pointing at her, and she realised was bleeding. Any woman would feel the horror and humiliation of that, but she was extremely religious and that was just the end for her.
Another experience came when a charity had made it possible for Zara to have three nights’ accommodation in the home of a very kind person. The Committee will be able to imagine what I will say. She bled through the night—because of her erratic lifestyle she had no idea that her period was about to come—and she was horrified when she woke up in the morning, went to clean the sheets and discovered the blood had seeped through to the mattress. There was no way of hiding from that very kind person, to whom she was extremely grateful, what had happened.