Let’s talk about periods.
They’re not pleasant. I may have been born with the wrong set of anatomical underparts, but I’m aware of what women experience on a monthly basis. Anything that eases this menstrual discomfort is, I would say, pretty essential to modern life.
The UK Government disagrees. As far as Whitehall is concerned, sanitary products – towels, pads and tampons – are things you can live without. Sanitary products are classed as “non-essential, luxury items”, and subject to 5% VAT. If you want to buy a zeppelin, a Peppa Pig onesie for your kid or copy of Playboy you can do it without paying a penny of VAT. If you need to indulge in the decadent whimsy of buying a panty liner, the taxman comes knocking every time.
Women are now taking a stand. The University of East Anglia’s student union has decided, in an act of protest, to sell women’s sanitary products at cost, while a petition is already up on Change.org to call on the Government to end what amounts to a tax on womanhood. It’s fronted by a crocodile – one of the exotic meats UK Chancellor George Osborne considers an essential, VAT-free part of life.
This groundswell is great, but it’s missing a vital component: you. Every community pharmacy in the country stocks sanitary products in a range of shapes, makes and sizes. Every pharmacist knows they’re essential. And every contractor can send the Government a message.
Get involved and help end the tampon tax. Write to your MP or local paper. Knock the price of sanitary products down by 5% (it hits the bottom line, but it sends your customers a positive message). Tell your customers what’s happening and how they can help.
It’s ridiculous that we live in a society where I can buy a razorblade without paying VAT (the right to a beard-free existence is also “essential”), but my female friends have to pay around an extra £3 a year because of their sex. It’s unjust, unfair and unequal. And we can help stop it.