What exactly is the Tampon Tax?

Major parties have failed to tackle the Tampon Tax in their manifestos before the 2017 General Election.

Earlier this year the charity Freedom4Girls brought attention to “period poverty”. Some girls in Leeds were reportedly missing school while having their periods because they couldn’t afford to buy sanitary products.

Tampons and sanitary pads are feminine hygiene products that the EU have imposed a Value-Added Tax (VAT) on. Labour reduced the VAT from 17.5 per cent to five per cent in 2000.

Last year, an EU summit welcomed the possibility of increased flexibility for member states regarding VATs, but Brexit might jeopardise the plan for zero-rating the VAT for sanitary products.

Paula Sherriff, Labour candidate for Dewsbury, Mirfield, Denby Dale and Kirburton, has campaigned since 2015 to formally remove the Tampon Tax. The tax considers the tampons and pads a woman needs in her lifetime – about 11,000, according to the Absorbent Hygiene Products Manufacturers Association (AHPMA) – as “luxury items”.

Although Labour, the Conservative Party and Plaid Cymru did not include the issue in their manifestos, all other political parties addressed the Tampon Tax.

The Green Party announced they would improve access to basic health needs by “removing VAT from sanitary products and ensuring that they are provided free of charge to those in extreme financial need”.

The Liberal Democrats also said they would “address period poverty by providing free sanitary products to girls at school”.

UKIP included the issue in their manifesto: “We will remove VAT from hot takeaway food such as fish and chips, and from women’s sanitary products.”

The Scottish National Party stated that “until VAT is removed from sanitary products, SNP MPs will call for Scotland’s population share of the Tampon Tax Fund to be transferred to the Scottish Government so that a fair and proportionate amount can be distributed to organisations working with and for women across Scotland”.

During the Spring Budget speech, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced that £12 millions raised from the Tampon Tax would be allocated to women’s rights charities. This decision inflamed the debate and in April it was revealed that part of the funds went to an anti-abortion group.

Period stigma is also affecting Western societies, according to research conducted by Plan International. The organisation revealed that women are still marginalised and mocked during their periods. Plan International UK and Australia try to normalise period by urging The Unicode Consortium to add a “period emoji” to the 1,088 currently in use.

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