Adiós, Tampon Tax!

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The highly contested and wrongful tax on tampons- till now dubbed as “non-essential, luxury items” by those who have absolutely no right to claim so- is finally being removed, as announced on the 2020 budget. That’s right ladies, no longer will we be financially punished for bleeding out of our vaginas every month… or will we? An article in The Guardian revealed that the removal of the 5% VAT will save women an average total of £40 in her lifetime- that’s about 7p per pack of 20 tampons. I mean, I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t feel like a great deal of change. Sure, this is a huge win for the much aggrieved two-decade long campaign against the tampon tax, and it’s certainly a move in the right direction, particularly in the case of those who are seriously struggling financially, but is it enough?

In 2017, the BBC released a “tampon tax calculator”. I popped in my age, 20, and when my menstruation began, aged 13, and let the magic machine tot up the rest. £309.91- that’s around how much I’ve spent on sanitation products so far in my short 20 years. £1,472.07- that’s how much I’m predicted to spend in my lifetime. 

For someone as fortunate and privileged as myself, this doesn’t make too big a dent in my monthly budget. But I’ve got a maintenance loan, a weekly wage with some occasional tips, and a little something coming from the parents. I’ve also only got myself to look after. What about those with less? What things do they have to sacrifice in order to purchase such a basic sanitation essential? The other night, lying in bed after a particularly heavy day of boozing, I cried to myself as I read Ethiopiaid’s statistics on how many young girls drop out of school when their menstruation arrives, unable to cope without the necessary sanitation products. You best believe I depleted a fair portion of my bank account repeatedly donating money to their cause. 

And I hear you; we’re talking about the UK, not a developing country, the problem is far less severe. But there’s still a great deal of relative poverty in the UK, still those who have no choice but to use foodbanks to feed themselves and their families. 

But what about other basic hygiene products? We don’t expect free toilet roll, toothpaste or shampoo, so why are so many women now demanding free sanitation products? I side with Jessica Valenti on this one; in an article she wrote for The Guardian, Valenti says, “this is less an issue of costliness than it is of principle: menstrual care is health care, and should be treated as such.” 

So, here’s the solution I propose. Menstrual cups. Ladies, I’m sure most of you know about these by now. Gents, a menstrual cup is a reusable silicone cup that’s placed inside the vagina, it can be emptied out, washed, and used again many times over. Not only does this greatly reduce the financial burden on the government of numerous free tampons and pads, it’s also the right move in terms of single-use materials and the sadly disastrous effect they have on the environment. This is no shade on those of you who use single-use period sanitation; most of us still do and it’s absolutely our prerogative to do so if it means your comfort at a time of the month that is far from comfortable.  

It’s time to end the lifelong stigma against a completely natural biological occurrence that can, and is in many places, destroying young girls’ lives by forcing them out of education or compromising their health, hygiene and safety. It’s time to stop prisoners who have no access to sanitation products from having to resort to unhygienic solutions every month. It’s time for the government to step up and say, “Menstrual care is health care because we support women”.

It’s time to end period poverty.

Beanna Olding