The Tampon Tax…We’ve got a long way to go.
I find myself increasingly amazed at the fact that no matter how much outrage, no matter how strong the initial protests, the British public are seemingly calmed down with the equivalent of a pat and and a promise from our governments that our problems are duly noted and they are going to do something about it. In this instance my outrage is considering the Tampon Tax. Having read yet another wonderful article about the progress we’re making thanks to our government initiatives and generous support to many charities, funded by our Tampon Tax, they are now in a position to help women and put an end to the stigma of period poverty, by providing free sanitation to some sectors of women and young girls.
Call me ungrateful, but whilst everyone is applauding, I see that women are essentially still paying an unfair tax, and then the powers that be take that revenue to ‘help’ women’s charitable causes. How very nice of them!
If I were a stand up comedian I could pace that sentence for you, pause in the right places and let that sit. So You take money from us women as the product is solely for females, recognisable unfair, blatantly sexist, and then help us with that money by kindly donating it to some causes that affect some of us females with our money, and claim a big fat gold star in the process!
It’s so funny not funny. Some people feel “it’s better than nothing” well, that mindset in my opinion is what has left us in a hell of a lot of trouble in so many areas, but let’s just not get started on all that. ( I can almost see my children rolling their eyes if I said that sentence aloud…backing out of the room).
Just last month in March 2019 the Department for Culture Media & Sport announced several charities were to share a £15m windfall from the latest Tampon Tax Fund round. Wow, that’s pretty staggering, and believe me as a Trustee I understand how valid and vital receiving any funding, donation, gift is to the survival and ability of the charity to do great things for the communities they serve.
But then it made me think about the maths, if that staggering amount was from the latest funding round, what about all the money that’s been unfairly raised on the backs of women over the years gone by and simply used to pad out the coffers of the main economy, with no recognition as per usual of the significant part women are playing or rather paying in contributing to the bigger picture.
That’s one funding round, one! I’m 43 years of age (Shhh.. I know!) I’m just thinking about how many years I’ve been contributing to this pot, and my mother before me, and her mother before her etc. Then multiply that across the female population…yeah, I’d say we’ve been a significant part of the economy in ways unrecognised and unfairly imposed as usual, but this is one we can actually do something directly about with ease just cut it out!
Period Poverty itself is on an increasing scale as are food banks, living off-grid (not through choice) and all those other horrid reminders that things really haven’t got better for the general population in these enlightened times of political, technological, social and economic progression.
In June 2018 MP Danielle Rowley revealed that having periods can cost women hundreds of pounds every year. Stating: “”We know the average cost of a period in the UK over a year is £500 – many women can’t afford this.”
To clarify the term, ‘Period poverty’ refers to having a lack of access to sanitary products due to financial constraints. This is a problem on a global scale, in third world countries, developing countries and shockingly, on a worrying scale in this country. Imagine young girls in the UK missing school because they simply don’t have access to sanitation products and their families already struggling to make ends meet simply may not be able to sustain providing them. Though in all honesty it is not a problem exclusive to young girls, but it’s an area that clearly has significant impact if girls are missing their education because of not having access to something they physically need every month.
There are wonderful charities driving the charge to make this a very real issue, not swept under the carpet. Pushing to have access to free sanitary products at school. There are petitions, movements, websites, youtube channels all doing their best to make this subject very much a part of the agenda being dealt with. Yet still, the tax remains.
We gasp in awe and horror that the nobles in days gone by got away with a tax such as the “Daylight Robbery” tax as we like to call it. Imagine having to brick up your windows because the more access to daylight your home had the more money you had to pay…yeah, ludicrous and yet that was life in Britain. Imagine the Sheriff of Nottingham not only squeezing the population for ever increasing taxes, but going and banging on only the doors of all the maidens in the vicinity and demanding an extra tax for females, call it “the Breast tax” once you’re of age to have breasts you must pay a tax, that would be a ridiculous analogy, sexist, unfair, they don’t choose to have breasts it’s nature right? Ok, well then how about we tax mensuration instead…oh yes, we in the sane world, in the modern world actually do!
In Scotland, sanitary products are now freely available in schools, universities and colleges. In Wales, the government are tackling the issue of period poverty with a £1 million fund.
But it’s fair to say that plenty of young people and women are still very much struggling with the issue in England. In fact, Teenage activist Amika George started the powerful #FreePeriods legal campaign in an effort to get the government to provide free access to sanitary products in schools and colleges across the UK some time ago and is still fighting the good fight.
In August 2017, Tesco became the very first UK supermarket to swallow the 5% Tampon Tax VAT themselves, Waitrose and the Co-op also now pay the Tampon Tax on behalf of their customers making sanitation products cheaper to buy through them.
A year or so ago I was fortunate to attend an inspirational women in business seminar hosted at RBS Natwest Bank in London where one of the panel members was Bryony Farmer. Menstrual health activist, Lyme disease fighter, business woman and YouTuber. CEO and Founder of Precious Stars.⭐
“At Precious Stars we believe everyone should be able to have a fun, comfortable, eco-friendly and hassle free period. That’s why we’ve developed a variety of cloth pads to suit everyone’s needs, as well as stocking a range of other reusable products.”
Bryony is such an inspirational young lady and is certainly is challenging the status quo on how we address the subject of periods, but also back then she was very much involved with addressing period poverty herself.. Young people, direct action, I love it!
What truly bothers me is that we like to think of ourselves as that little bit better, a bit smug that we’re more caring, more civil in the UK, and something as archaic and unfair as this tax, well, let’s see how it compares across the globe:
AUSTRALIA – recently made significant progress from 10% Tampon Tax rate Austalia is leading the way – beginning 2019 by officially scrapping the tampon tax for residents.
CANADA – 0% Tampon Tax rate
FRANCE – 5.5% Tampon Tax rate
GERMANY – 19% Tampon Tax rate
UNITED KINGDOM – 5% Tampon Tax rate
New York City made history in 2016 with details of the nation’s first legislative package to ensure access to menstrual products in public schools, shelters and corrections facilities for all.
In doing so, New York has stepped out as a leader in a growing national and global movement for menstrual equity. The city’s new laws acknowledge that the ability to manage menstruation falls squarely at the intersection of sound health, economic and educational policy.
After generations of protesting in the UK formerPrime Minister David Cameron deeming the tax rate ‘unfair’, his Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne finally vowed to see the end of tampon tax here in the UK. He also ensured that all tax revenue collected from sanitary products will be donated to charity. Another are we pay way too much tax, but those nice people over there give us some of it back in the form of a benefit or a charity, essentially it’s always for our own good or the greater good, but they’re not really trying too hard to give up the cash cow any time too soon.
Whilst these charitable donations are welcomed, useful and gratefully received, we just should be doing better and to be better, we have to do better. So many government around the globe seem to have found the laws to be unfair, and have conceded following protest and petition to reduce the rate, yet the tax itself remains. (apart from Canada). It would seem the unfair tax imposed on females, simply for being females and providing what is essentially a medical requirement.
On a personal note I’d like to see us all try and find ways to bring some of that into society where possible. Why can’t some large employers perhaps provide free sanitation in bathrooms rather than vending machines which charge. The same for gyms, hotels, restaurants.
Imagine the coffee chains so popular predominantly with women and mums during the day providing free sanitation in their bathrooms. The bars, hotels etc following until it just becomes as standard as providing toilet paper, because our society has truly moved on from 100’s of years ago, and we’re just better than that.
Does it mean no one will ever buy sanitation products themselves, of course not, and generally I think most women will want to walk with their own sanitation of choice in their bag of course, but should you need it, when you need it, it’s available. What a wonderful world it would be.