It is the natural order of things that women bleed during menstruation. Gentlemen, if reading that was uncomfortable, you have no idea! Menstrual hygiene, women’s sanitary protection (WSP) is essential to health and safety. So, it is appalling that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has classed WSP as ‘non-essential, luxury items’ and charge VAT. The Government is being petitioned to end the #TamponTax (#TT), as it is known. The Government should remove it immediately but say this is not possible without EU intervention. Meanwhile, in a devious and nocuous move they have taken some of the proceeds from the #TT and directed them to charities that provide services to women who are victims of violence. This sends the wrong message in an already bloody mess.
Even as a child I recognised the health and safety value of WSP. My brother cut his hand and could not find any cotton wool. I told him our sister had lots and promptly produced a tampon from her dresser. I don’t think I’ll send this post to him! Since then, I have discovered the primary purpose for these overpriced minuscule wads of cotton and a few others besides. They are excellent for nose bleeds (unwrap and insert!), as emergency curlers and embarrassing boyfriends. They are also aspirational; Prince Charles has expressed his desire to be a tampon!
The #TT is sexist. It is levied on products that are
unavoidable and exclusively for women and girl children, every month, for 30 years, because of our sex. It gives VAT a new meaning, Vagina Added Tax. WSP are not a bleeding luxury. I equate
luxury with pleasure like flying a helicopter, or eating exotic meat or playing bingo/lottery. On the other hand, aren’t these luxuries? No. They are all exempt from VAT and, therefore, classed as ‘essential’.
In October, MPs voted against a Labour motion forcing the Treasury to challenge Brussels over the #TT. Only three Tory MP’s voted in favour. Yet, the Government say that they cannot remove the VAT without EU approval. However, Ireland, also in the EU does not charge VAT nor does Canada. Kenya has abolished both VAT and import duty.
Whilst MPs are sorting that out, the Government should provide WSP on prescription, where VAT does not apply. Like the condom and the pill, they should be dispensed free of charge; Or at the very least remain free of charge for young women until they start full-time work. The latter idea was from a male caller to my Thursday talk show on Galaxy 102.5fm.
In a halfway measure, sitting on the bleeding fence, George Osborne has directed some of the money raised from the #TT towards women’s charities for violence. It has made me see red! This devious manoeuvre makes me appear mean-spirited if I object, but it is a perverse tax on the victims of violence, rape and abuse. In 94% of the cases of violence against women, men are the perpetrators.
Paying for violence against women using a women’s only tax says that violence against women is a women’s issue. This is wrong, it’s so wrong there are not enough syllables in the word wrong to encompass how wrong. Taxing in this manner takes away the responsibility from men and government and hints that this type of violence is self-inflicted or we are suffering from Münchausen syndrome?
The move adds insult to injury given that 85% of Osborne’s austerity measures adversely affect women in terms of both job losses and cuts to public services. In 2014, England saw 10 domestic violence centres closed in just four months. Some have seen their funding reduced by 80%. Imkaan has highlighted the serious funding crisis facing BME women’s services. They report that only 154 women found refuge out of 733.
If these essential services are being funding by WSP, I won’t begrudge women’s charities receiving the #TT until it is reclassified. It would have been preferable to have had a choice of support groups and what will happen when the VAT is removed?
George has given self-help a whole new meaning. If followed to its logical conclusion we should tax children’s books to pay for their care homes. The question of how money is spent from the #TT is a clever but harmful distraction from the issue. Either George Osborne can justify charging the #TT or he cannot. If he can, the money for women’s charities against violence should come from the general pool of VAT receipts and the services should be comprehensively funded. There is no need for a separation, particularly as it sends a divisive message. If he cannot justify charging a luxury tax on necessities, and that seems likely, he should follow Kenya’s example and stop the VAT. Currently, George Osborne is doing neither but causing a bloody mess.
Please sign the petition to remind George to stop the #TT.
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