As many of you might have heard, Tesco has recently become the first UK supermarket to decide to cover the cost of the ‘Tampon Tax’ for all of their customers.
For those of you who don’t know, the ‘Tampon Tax’ refers to the VAT that is put on sanitary products, around the world, as in many places (including the UK and much of the US) they are considered a ‘luxury item’ and are taxed accordingly.
Campaigners across Britain have been marching and protesting for years demanding that their government scraps VAT on all women’s sanitary products. However, due to EU rules, it has been unable to lower the rate below 5%
Tesco has pledged that they will pay this tax for anybody who needs them. They are doing this by lowering the prices of their own brand, and many popular brands of sanitary items by 5%
Their reasoning? Probably a clever marketing technique. In fact, I am positive I will see some backlash on social media in the coming days about how the retailer doesn’t really care for the cause and are exploiting women to make some coin. I don’t doubt that, but regardless, this is a huge step forward and a great win for the Feminist movement.
After hearing the news, I did some research on which countries still tax our wombs:
- The tax was removed in Canada in 2015, causing campaigners in the UK to speak out on the issue. The UK isn’t expected to have the tax removed until next year.
- Kenya was the first country to abolish the unfair tax.
- In Australia, sanitary items are taxed at 10%
- Ireland (my home) levies no value-added tax on tampons, panty liners, and sanitary towels.
- Slovakia levies a 20% tax on sanitary products
- Below you can see how the tax is used in each state in USA
- Tampons Taxed
- Tampons Not Taxed
- No State Sales Tax
As someone who has a period, I think I can speak for us all when I say having a period is no luxury and it is most definitely not a choice. Menstruation is biology. This is why I believe that our sanitary products should not only be tax free but cost free too.
For homeless women and Trans men (or anyone who menstruates) around the world, their period truly is that dreaded time of the month. With limited or no access to sanitary products, they’re often forced to go without. This combined with their inability to find a steady and comfortable place to shower, means that homeless people with a uterus are forced to live in dreadful conditions during the course of their periods.
The cost of a period is also negatively impacts lives of low socio-economic groups. Many of us are lucky enough to be able to buy these products every month without the worry of having enough left over to feed the mouths of our children. However, some of us aren’t that lucky. We need to stand up for those who aren’t as privileged, who maybe cannot afford the hefty price tag of a box of tampons.
This is not only a matter of cleanliness and hygiene, but also a matter of dignity.
Scotland recently became the first country in the world to begin providing sanitary products for free. Schools in Scotland are now legally obligated to hand them out for free and some colleges are even putting vending machines with pads and tampons in place. These are small victories when it comes to cutting the cost of menstruation that need to be rewarded.
All of these victories started off as a small campaign, led by one or two people, advocating for change. All it took was for someone to notice that something wasn’t right and ask for it to be fixed. Humans often underestimate the power that one voice can make. If you believe, like me, that not only should the tax be cut but some form of free, safe sanitary product should be made available for low income people and the homeless, sign my petition on change.org to get the ball rolling in Ireland.
If a petition doesn’t exist for your country or state, make one. Ask for signatures, organize protests, and send letters to your local TDs or state representatives. We all have the ability to be activists. We all have the ability to make change possible. Why not you?
Join the cause on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/periodpovertyireland/